A gorilla who was mutilated in an attack by poachers can walk again after a team of British vets amputated his left arm to free him from the chronic pain he had suffered. Shufai was targeted by brutal gunmen a decade ago – they killed his mother for bushmeat and left him with severe bullet injuries in his arm.
As gorillas use all four limbs to walk, the ape was unable to get around for years and rescuers began to fear he might never recover.
But now a specialist team has flown out from Britain to Shufai’s home in the Cameroon jungle and removed part of his arm in order to reduce the pain and make him mobile again.
Sharon Redrobe, zoological director of Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire, has followed the ape’s extraordinary life for years, and regularly visits the Ape Action Africa centre where he lives.
She performed the delicate surgery alongside a number of other British vets by flying out pre-sterilised equipment and adapting a local schoolroom into an operating theatre.
‘It’s a world away from where I’m used to operating but our primary mission was help our project grow,’ she said.
‘We had to make the difficult decision to amputate Shufai’s arm after X-rays showed damage to his wrist had worsened.
‘But since returning to the UK he has made a full recovery and his healing time has been remarkable.’
Shufai arrived at the sanctuary 10 years ago, and was so traumatised and injured that staff did not expect him to survive.
The western lowland gorilla first underwent surgery from Ms Redrobe last year, but unfortunately his health deteriorated rapidly and he found it hard to adjust.
Rachel Hogan, the director of Ape Action Africa, has made it her life’s mission to save orphaned chimpanzees, gorillas and other primates.
Despite contracting malaria an incredible nine times, she has stuck with her team in West Africa to see the project through and keep supporting animals like Shufai.
‘It was hard for the whole team but seeing Shufai back with his family group is a huge relief and he can now look forward to a pain-free life,’ she said.
‘I can’t thank the vet team enough for the incredible work they did and their support of Shufai and Ape Action Africa.’
Twycross Zoo’s World Primate Centre cares for more than 35 species of primate, many of which are critically endangered in the wild due to poaching and habitat loss.