A new documentary series airing in the UK tonight (August 6) will feature two vets from a Leicestershire zoo as they conduct vital medical checks on endangered primates.

Operation Wild will see vet and chief executive of Twycross Zoo Sharon Redrobe and zoo vet Sarah Chapman head to an ape sanctuary in Cameroon to help with the treatment of Shufai, an orphaned Western lowland gorilla.

Ms Redrobe said the risks of such work in the jungle are very high.

“In Cameroon, we often have to carry out life-threatening surgery and medical procedures in an adapted school classroom,” she said. “Working in such conditions means the risks to animals and humans are much higher than in the UK and we work very closely together to ensure everyone is kept safe. The temperatures and humidity make the working conditions almost unbearable and we have to make sure the anaesthetised animals, as well as us humans, don’t get dehydrated during procedures.”

The intrepid vet has been treating star ape Shufai for a number of years. He arrived at the sanctuary a decade ago, orphaned and severely mutilated following an attack by poachers. As he grew, the bullet wounds and gunshot pellets lodged in his wrist and deformed the bones in his arm, causing pain and affecting his ability to climb and interact with other gorillas in his group.

In 2012, Redrobe conducted a special operation with a team of vets to correct the problem in Shufai’s wrist. Following a further operation last year to amputate Shufai’s arm, he has now successfully re-integrated with his group and is able to move around and climb freely.

Chief executive of Ape Action Africa Caroline McLaney thanked the team for its work.

“Thanks to the dedication of the team in Cameroon and the efforts of our UK colleagues, Shufei is now pain-free and enjoying the rough and tumble of gorilla life back in the middle of his group.”

As well as treating Shufai at the Ape Action Africa home, Ms Redrobe and Mrs Chapman will also administer health checks and electrocardiograms to some 30 chimpanzees over five days. The work is part of an international scientific study based at Twycross Zoo that aims to coordinate the health checks of great apes across European Zoos, diagnosing and treating heart disease in the endangered animals.

Operation Wild is presented by Clare Balding and Steve Leonard and airs on BBC One tonight at 9pm.

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