Heart failure

Kansas City Zoo mourns loss of gorilla to congestive heart failure

Last year we announced the extraordinary procedure that saved one of our resident gorillas – a blood transfusion from Charlie to his gravely ill brother Curtis. Both recovered well, but that turned out to be just the start of Curtis’ health journey. Today we share the heartbreaking news that Curtis, 28, was euthanized on October 1 due to congestive heart failure.

Curtis and Charlie, both male western lowland gorillas, arrived in Kansas City in March 2020. In February 2021, however, Curtis exhibited symptoms including vomiting, abdominal discomfort, lack of appetite, and lethargy. A CT scan revealed blood in his abdomen from a hemorrhage in his left kidney which was putting extreme pressure on the organ. As is often the case, the cause was unknown. It was determined that a blood transfusion was the only option.

Several months later, however, Curtis exhibited similar symptoms and it was determined that the only chance to save him was the removal of the affected kidney. Charlie was again immobilized to provide blood to transfuse his brother. Without it, Curtis would almost certainly have died during the complex 7-hour surgery. An incredible team of specialists came together and the kidney was successfully removed. After the surgery, Curtis slowly but surely recovered, regaining his appetite and eventually, his playfulness. Throughout Curtis’ ordeal, he was under the dedicated care of the zoo’s veterinary health team as well as the Gorilla Troop’s animal care specialists. Additionally, local, national, and international doctors and veterinarians consulted on the case, lending their expertise, lending medical equipment, and even helping to perform surgery.

Curtis won the hearts of everyone who met him with his easy-going and curious nature. Even on days when he wasn’t feeling his best, Curtis remained gentle and confident with those who tried to help him. As the entire zoo family mourns, we take comfort in knowing that the groundbreaking care Curtis has received will help many other animals. Curtis gave a big fight to his illness and everything learned from his situation will be passed on to other institutions.