Miami-Dade County

This doctor usually works on humans. This patient was quite different

Gwen Myers, chief veterinarian at Zoo Miami, works on Sia, a 29-year-old siamang, who had a surgical procedure Oct. 11, 2019, to remove sand and small pebbles that had built up in her gastrointestinal tract.
Gwen Myers, chief veterinarian at Zoo Miami, works on Sia, a 29-year-old siamang, who had a surgical procedure Oct. 11, 2019, to remove sand and small pebbles that had built up in her gastrointestinal tract. Ron Magill/Zoo Miami

Sia, a 29-year-old siamang, started slumping over and looking depressed.

Zoo Miami staff quickly determined the ape had a buildup of sand and small pebbles in her gastrointestinal tract.

To fix the problem, a team of doctors — including one who usually works on humans — performed surgery Friday to clear out the accumulation.

“She is doing so much better now,” said Ron Magill, a spokesman for the zoo. “She’s eating, she’s alert, she’s much more active than before.”

As part of Zoo Miami’s “One Health” initiative, its Animal Health Department often consults doctors who work on humans when the animal has a similar anatomy. Primates fit that category, Magill said.

Siamangs are endangered medium-sized primates that weigh between 22 and 25 pounds and live in the mountain tropical forests of Malaysia and Borneo in Asia.

On Friday, Dr. Briana Danielson, a private veterinary surgeon who has donated her time to Zoo Miami on various occasions, Dr. Gaetano Ciancio, a human transplant and oncology specialist from Jackson Health System, and a Zoo Miami Associate veterinarian, Dr. Marisa Bezjian, worked together to remove several grams of sand and pebbles from Sia.

Sia is recovering in a holding area and will be out of the exhibit for a few days, Magill said.

“You can’t really even tell she just had surgery,” he said. “She must have really been uncomfortable before.”

Carli Teproff grew up in Northeast Miami-Dade and graduated from Florida International University in 2003. She became a full-time reporter for the Miami Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news.
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