Orangutan at Phoenix Zoo gets life-saving surgery, first of its kind in U.S.

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(Source: The Phoenix Zoo) (Source: The Phoenix Zoo)
(Source: The Phoenix Zoo) (Source: The Phoenix Zoo)
(Source: 3TV./CBS5) (Source: 3TV./CBS5)
(Source: 3TV./CBS5) (Source: 3TV./CBS5)
(3TV/CBS 5) -

Medical history is now being made at the Phoenix Zoo.

It’s not unlike humans to get this particular kind of sinus surgery, but Daniel is the first orangutan in the country to ever get this kind of surgery.

Monkey see, and now monkey do.

“Can you open your mouth? Oh, good boy!”

Daniel is the Phoenix Zoo’s 12-year-old orangutan, who spent this last year with a severe sinus infection. And medicine just wasn’t working.

“He had a lot of sinus pressure and he just felt not well,” said Mary Yoder, Daniel’s longtime caretaker.

That’s when the zoo decided he needed surgery to save his life, and quick, so they called ear, nose, and throat doctor David Simms, whose regular patients are humans.

“I got a note on my desk that said that the zoo was calling about possibly doing an operation on an orangutan, and originally I thought it was a joke,” said Simms.

But it wasn’t, and Simms got to work right away, 3D printing a cell-by-cell replica of Daniel’s skull to prepare for the 3-hour long surgery.

“The anatomy is very similar to humans, so once I got inside with my scope it wasn’t that much different,” said Simms.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Critter Corner]

The procedure went off without a hitch.

Daniel now has open pink tissue on his throat to keep him healthy. And his personality? Back to monkeying around, thanks to Dr. Simms.

“How many surgeries would you say you’ve performed on humans?” we asked.

“Thousands,” said Simms.

“And how many on an orangutan?”

“One!” said Simms.

Because the surgery was so successful, the zoo now expects Daniel to be able to live into his 50s.

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Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


Briana WhitneyBriana Whitney joined CBS 5/3TV in February 2018, and is no stranger to the sunshine and heat!

Click to learn more about Briana.

Briana Whitney

She’s from Northern California, but prior to coming to Phoenix, she reported at KIII-TV in Corpus Christi, TX for three years.

During her time in South Texas, she reported on several national stories. Some of the most memorable were the 2015 Wimberley floods, reporting for eight hours off the Gulf of Mexico during Hurricane Harvey in August of 2017, and reporting from the church shooting in Sutherland Springs in November of 2017.

Her general assignment reporting won her two Associated Press awards, six EMMY awards, and one Emmy nomination for a half-hour special she wrote, produced and hosted on the issue of child pornography.

Briana graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and during college had seven different internships at several news stations.

When she isn’t chasing breaking news or working on a feature story, Briana loves checking out the best restaurants in the Valley, and hiking or rollerblading around town. Briana is very happy to have made Arizona home!

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