‘Dr. Mark’ Reveals Which Disney Animal Volunteers for Medical Exams

dr mark disney gino
Dr. Mark Penning and Animal Kingdom primates. Credit: D23 / Disney

If you’re not already following Dr. Mark Penning (the Vice President of Disney’s Animals, Science, and Environment department in the Animal Kingdom with Walt Disney World Resort), then you have been missing out on some fun, educational, and adorable behind the scenes from within the Animal Kingdom!

Dr. Mark, known for his Instagram account “Dr. Mark at Disney”, recently spoke to the official Disney fan club D23 on the D23 podcast and spoke at length about one particularly special animal in the Animal Kingdom who actually has no problem with doctors’ appointments and medical examinations.


Gino Credit: Disney

It will come as no surprise to ardent Animal Kingdom and gorilla fans that Gino is the animal that Dr. Mark has chosen as a standout resident. Gino is an impressive silverback gorilla who is known for making a positive impression on Disney World Guests, and he has clearly made a good impression on Cast Members and the Animal Care Team behind the scenes, too!

Gino the Gorilla, Disney's Animal Kingdom

Gino in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Credit: Disney

Dr. Mark seemed enamored with all of the animals under his purview and care, but he was noticeably enthused about Gino. This “very famous silverback gorilla” was described by Dr. Mark as “a wonderful ambassador” and a “good dad”. He mentioned that Gino often “helps to raise the youngsters and takes care of them and plays with them” and that the Animal Kingdom Cast Members are “very proud of him”.

However, because (as Dr. Mark Put it) Gino is “getting on in years” and is “not physically at his strongest”, he must have frequent cardiac ultrasounds. Acording to Dr. Mark, Gino is actually “one of the first gorillas in the world that actually allowed the folks caring for him to do cardiac ultrasounds on him voluntarily”.

Cardiac problems are common with gorillas, so Dr. Mark told D23 that the Animal Care team at the Animal Kingdom does “cardiac ultrasounds on a regular basis on all our regular male gorillas”.

Gorillas can be dangerous, especially males, but Gino actually “positions himself with his giant arms out” and lets the team do everything from blood samples and ultrasounds with probes to injections and teeth brushing. All the silverback gorilla wants in return, Dr. Mark said, is his favorite grapes!

“He takes them one by one and he looks intently at whoever is doing the procedure,” the doctor said admiringly. It apparently  “doesn’t bother him at all”.

Dr. Mark Penning called Gino’s tolerance “a testament to our amazing team of animal care professionals [because] we can train such a big and potentially dangerous animal to just participate in all of these medical procedures” and foster a “high level of trust”. He also attributed some of the marvelous efforts, of course, to Gino — an animal that he said he has “so much respect for”!

About Sharon

Sharon is a writer and animal lover from New England. Sharon's two main focuses in her work are Disney's correlations with pop culture and the significance of Disney princesses (which was the basis for her college thesis). When she's not writing about Disney, Sharon spends her time singing, dancing, and cavorting with woodland creatures!

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