UP vets save elephant’s tusk
A crane stood by for the possibly life-saving surgery on the 23-year-old bull, Grand
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)