Duck can quack again

Kapi-Mana News - - WHAT’S ON - VIR­GINIA FAL­LON

In a suc­cess­ful duck-to-duck trans­plant, a beak­less, tongue­less bird has had a donor bill fit­ted by a Welling­ton vet­eri­nar­ian.

The wild mal­lard duck, named Isa, was op­er­ated on by Deb­o­rah Kir­ton who spent hours pre­par­ing for the surgery and cre­at­ing the per­fect pro­boscis for the bird.

‘‘It’s one of the more un­usual things I’ve done.’’

Noth­ing could be done for Isa’s miss­ing tongue but the new beak meant she would be able to eat and had an un­ex­pected ben­e­fit, Kir­ton said. ‘‘Ap­par­ently she couldn’t quack be­fore but af­ter the surgery she was quack­ing straight away.’’

Kir­ton used a donor beak from a dead duck and worked with epoxy putty and a drill to make it into the right shape for Isa’s face.

While it wasn’t Kir­ton’s first time fix­ing a bill, it was the only time she had cre­ated a lower beak, or mandible, for a bird.

The new beak was at­tached by sur­gi­cal wire to the bony stubs un­der Isa’s mouth in a hour-long op­er­a­tion dur­ing which the duck was sup­ported by a full vet­eri­nary team.

A sec­ond surgery was needed af­ter the feisty bird tried her brand new beak out on her wire cage, and while the new beak may still need some tweak­ing, Kir­ton was thrilled with how Isa had re­sponded so far.

‘‘She even gave me a lit­tle peck as she was leav­ing.’’

It’s been a long road for the lit­tle brown duck who flew into a Welling­ton sanc­tu­ary a month ago.

Ex­hausted and starv­ing, Isa couldn’t have picked a bet­ter place to land than the Ohariu prop­erty of the Welling­ton Bird Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Trust, where she was spot­ted try­ing to feed.

Su­per­vi­sor and nurse Courte­nay Thomas said on closer in­spec­tion, she found that, not only was the duck miss­ing her lower beak she had also lost her tongue, the in­jury thought to be caused by a hunter or an ag­gres­sive pukeko.

Isa would even­tu­ally move into an out­door aviary be­fore she is set free on the prop­erty with a GPS tracker at­tached.

The op­er­a­tion meant more eco­log­i­cally im­por­tant birds might ben­e­fit in the fu­ture, she said.

Vet­eri­nar­ian Deb­o­rah Kir­ton says her pro­fes­sion are used to think­ing out­side the square. Left, the re­paired beak.

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