South african vets &
Successfully Lengthen Broken jaw of Chimp in
Groundbreaking Surgical Procedure
By Dr Katja Koeppel &
Dr Gerhard Steenkamp
In what is known to be a first of its kind, a group
of South African veterinarians together with a
maxillofacial surgeon succeeded in surgically
lengthening the misaligned jaw of an adult male
Claude, a 15-year-old chimpanzee living at Chimp
Eden, a South African chimpanzee sanctuary affiliated
with the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), had trouble
He came to Chimp Eden in 2010 from the Central
African Republic where he was a victim of the
bushmeat trade and kept as a pet. He was isolated in a
small cage made of cement and bars, with no trees or
grass to enrich his life. Rescuers were made aware of
Claude and the JGI was contacted.
Claude has a friendly personality and settled well into
his new group at the sanctuary in the Mpumalanga
province in South Africa. Though he had been locked
up alone for most of his life, he displayed good social
skills and was accepted by the others. As a fairly large
male, Claude was able to ascend quite rapidly in the
hierarchy of his new group.
During Claude’s examinations in 2016, Dr Gerhard
Steenkamp, a Senior Lecturer at the University of
Pretoria, realized that Claude’s jaw was misaligned
and that the chimp had difficulty in eating properly.
Initial radiographs showed that his lower jaw had
sustained trauma many years before and probably
were fractured. The fracture was either poorly
stabilized or not at all. It healed in an abnormal
fashion, leaving Claude with this misaligned jaw.
Dr Katja Koeppel, a Wildlife Specialist Veterinarian
from the University or Pretoria arranged for a
Computed Tomography (CT) scan at the local
MediClinic in Mbombela in March 2017, and it was
only after the CT was evaluated that the extent of
Claude’s deformation was evident.
At the same time, impressions of the mouth were
made. Jaw length discrepancies can be corrected
through orthodontic treatment or through corrective
jaw surgery (orthognathic surgery).