Massage and dental check for Alf the gorilla

MOST of us dread a visit to the dentist, but for Longleat lowland gorilla Alf the experience was enhanced by some massage to strengthen his shoulder.

Alf had to be anaesthetised after keepers at the Wiltshire safari park spotted swelling to his lower jaw. A specialist veterinary dental team was brought in to undertake the operation and inspect the affected area.

Chris Mangham from Garston Vets said they found no major issues and were very pleased with how well the procedure went.

While Alf was unconscious, keepers took the opportunity to get animal osteopath Tony Nevin to manipulate the giant 150 kg primate’s right arm and shoulder.

Keeper Lauren Bow said: “Ever since Alf arrived here with his brothers Evindi and Kesho back in 2011 we have been aware of a weakness on his right side.

“We have been working with the osteopath to try and improve the movement and flexibility in his arm and occasions like this – when Alf is entirely sedated – provide us with the perfect opportunity to do some more intensive manipulation and massage.

“When he arrived his movement was actually quite limited but now it is pretty much back to normal. Tony manipulates the muscles, relaxing them and essentially putting them back to how they should be. It’s very similar to human physiotherapy.”

Brothers Alf, Evindi and Kesho, were all born at Dublin Zoo, and reunited at Longleat to form a bachelor colony.

With more than a dozen mature trees in an extensive outdoor grassed area, the spacious gorilla enclosure overlooks Longleat’s Half Mile Lake and utilises natural boundaries wherever possible without the barriers of bars or glass. The keepers have installed outdoor climbing logs and the gorillas share a large purpose built indoor complex with a communal area featuring ropes, swings and climbing apparatus.