UP vets save ele­phant’s tusk

A crane stood by for the pos­si­bly life-sav­ing surgery on the 23-year-old bull, Grand

Pretoria News - - FRONT PAGE - MEL FRYK­BERG

WORLD-RENOWNED Uni­ver­sity of Pre­to­ria vet­eri­nar­i­ans Pro­fes­sor Ger­hard Steenkamp and Dr Adrian Tordiffe have per­formed in­tri­cate den­tal surgery on an ele­phant to re­move its in­fected tusk at the Tbil­isi Zoo in Ge­or­gia, the uni­ver­sity re­ported.

Steenkamp, who teaches cour­ses in an­i­mal den­tistry and max­illo­fa­cial surgery at UP’s Fac­ulty of Ve­teri­nary Science, said that three years ago the zoo was dev­as­tated by the loss of 300 an­i­mals in a flood.

“They have a pair of Asian ele­phants, and a 23-year-old bull, Grand, was a gift from the Yere­van Zoo in Ar­me­nia four years ago,” he said.

When Grand was trans­ported to the Yere­van Zoo from Rus­sia he frac­tured both his tusks and in 2014 a Bri­tish team re­moved the left tusk.

Due to com­pli­ca­tions, the right tusk could not be re­moved, but be­came chron­i­cally in­fected. If bac­te­ria en­tered the blood­stream, it could have been life threat­en­ing, Steenkamp said.

“Grand’s pre­vi­ous surgery had many com­pli­ca­tions. One of them was a pro­tracted re­cov­ery time and the zoo was re­luc­tant to op­er­ate on him soon af­ter that pro­ce­dure,” he said.

How­ever, Tordiffe, who has gained ex­pe­ri­enced in ele­phant im­mo­bil­i­sa­tions and anaes­the­sia at the Pre­to­ria Zoo, and has vast knowl­edge of anaes­thetis­ing ele­phants in small spa­ces, was the per­fect choice.

Steenkamp de­vel­oped tech­niques to treat ele­phant tusks since 1998, re­fin­ing his meth­ods and in­stru­ments.

The en­tire pro­ce­dure from dart in to stand­ing took four hours and 15 min­utes, of which just over three hours was surgery time. A crane was parked in the vicin­ity to move the 3.5 ton ele­phant in the event of it be­ing in an in­con­ve­nient po­si­tion for surgery, Steenkamp said.

The anaes­the­sia and surgery went to plan, and Grand stood on his legs four hours and 15 min­utes later.

His pre­vi­ous re­cov­ery from anaes­the­sia was very stormy. It lasted about six hours and he took about 12 hours to stand.

Grand has be­come a celebrity in Ge­or­gia, and on the day of the op­er­a­tion a crowd of in­ter­na­tional news crews de­scended on the zoo. The surgery was filmed by the BBC as part of its new series, Big An­i­mal Surgery.

| African News Agency (ANA)

Uni­ver­sity of Pre­to­ria vet­eri­nar­i­ans Pro­fes­sor Ger­hard Steenkamp and Dr Adrian Tordiffe per­formed in­tri­cate den­tal surgery on an ele­phant to re­move its in­fected tusk in a zoo in Ge­or­gia, West­ern Asia. | African News Agency (ANA)

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