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Zahara being prepared for her scans at the Animal Referral Hospital.

One of the Zoo’s three eight-month-old Cheetah cubs, Zahara, is recovering well following specialist surgery on her left hind leg.

A couple of weeks ago, Zoo Keepers noticed Zahara limping. Some lameness can be common to see from time to time in a litter of playful, active Cheetah cubs - which enjoy routine rough-and-tumbles and plenty of playtime! The issue will often resolve itself over time. But Zahara’s condition wasn’t improving, so the Zoo’s Veterinary team decided it would be best to go ahead with a routine in-house procedure in the Wildlife Hospital - Zahara was anaesthetised, enabling the team to investigate the cause of the issue.

The procedure revealed something a little more complex. Senior Veterinarian, Dr Benn Bryant, examined Zahara and noticed abnormalities in her left hock - the joint about halfway up her hindleg. He took radiographs, and sought the advice of a Veterinary Radiologist specialist, concluding that there could be a developmental problem of the cartilage in Zahara’s leg. This is an issue sometimes seen in domestic dogs, but very unusual in a Cheetah!

The Zoo’s Veterinary team scheduled a consultation with specialist surgeon, Dr David Simpson, of the Animal Referral Hospital (ARH) Group. Early on Wednesday 9 August, the team transported Zahara down to the ARH clinic at Homebush. Following an MRI and CT scan of the Cheetah’s affected leg, Dr Simpson proceeded with surgery.

The team at the Animal Referral Hospital is highly qualified, and the clinic offers cutting-edge equipment and state of the art facilities - so we knew Zahara would be in good hands. All fingers were crossed for a good outcome for the Cheetah cub.

Zahara was diagnosed with Osteochondrosis - a condition of abnormal cartilage development, the cause of which is unknown. Dr Simpson was able to surgically remove the abnormal cartilage tissue near Zahara’s hock. This will be replaced naturally by scar tissue, which allows more normal function in the leg, minimising any pain Zahara currently has in the affected area.

While it was a huge day for Zahara, we were pleased to have her back home to her family at 9pm on the same day, which meant minimal disruption to the normal routines of the Cheetah family. Zahara is now recovering well in a smaller exhibit with her family, which is helping to limit her movement while she heals. We anticipate she’ll rejoin the main exhibit in the coming months, once she’s returned to good health.

The Veterinary team’s day trip to Sydney for Zahara’s surgery is testament to their wonderful commitment to the wellbeing of the Zoo’s animals. We’ve got our fingers crossed for further improvement to Zahara’s condition, and the Veterinary team will be watching her closely.

Watch this space for updates!

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