KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A 49-year-old lowland gorilla at the Topeka Zoo in Kansas died Sunday after tests revealed she had late-stage ovarian cancer that had spread, four days after undergoing surgery for constipation.
The zoo said in a statement that after Tiffany failed to improve since her surgery Wednesday to clear “a significant amount of stool” from her colon, the gorilla was taken Sunday for scans that revealed two abdominal masses later identified as tumors linked to stage-four ovarian cancer.
During a surgery later Sunday, the zoo said, “it became evident that the cancer had metastasized to the abdominal wall.” Surgeons and veterinarians paused that procedure, then decided the best recourse was to not awaken her after surgery. The gorilla died a short time later, “surrounded by the team of people that cared for her,” the zoo said.
“Even if all the cancer affected tissue could have been removed, we just could not see an appropriate way to administer a regimen of chemotherapy to treat the cancer,” said Brendan Wiley, the zoo’s director.
Tiffany was born in July 1968 at the Kansas City Zoo and has spent much of her time since then at the Topeka Zoo, aside from four years she lived at the Buffalo Zoo in New York in the 1980s.
“She was a big part of the persona of our zoo,” Wiley said of Tiffany, eulogizing her as a lover of board books, stuffed animals and her enjoyment “watching kids, and kids loved to watch her.”
“It seemed like everyone knew who Tiffany was,” Wiley said.