Posted on 30th September 2019 by Media Relations
Last week Taronga’s head veterinarian, Dr Larry Vogelnest volunteered with veterinarian specialists Dr Stephen Van Mil and Dr Gordon Corfield in a lifesaving, and world first operation on a female sun bear named, Hitam.
A tragic victim of illegal wildlife trafficking, Hitam was kept in captivity for five years and was fed nothing but rice and milk, leaving her with terrible bone deformities. Hitam was rescued and taken into care at the Orangutan Foundation International Care Centre in Borneo. It wasn’t long before the veterinary staff realised her pelvic canal opening was a quarter the size it should be; therefore she was in excruciating pain and needed urgent surgery. However, this operation has never been attempted in the world before and was a life-saving mission.
Senior Veterinarian, Dr Stephen Van Mil engaged the services of Specialist Veterinarian Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr Gordon Corfield who led the marathon eight-hour surgery and successfully performed a triple pelvic osteotomy on Hitam. Together with Taronga Zoo’s Dr Larry Vogelnest, Dr Van Mil and Dr Corfield inserted a custom made metal plate, built by leading Australian medical designer Girius Antanaitis, into Hitam’s pelvis.
“Larry’s expertise with sun bears, and his work with them in Cambodia and Vietnam was invaluable to this mammoth task. Eight hours is a long time to be on the operating table and we were grateful to have Larry’s knowledge for pre-op meds, anesthesia, pain relief and post-op recovery on board. His skills in this area is world-class”, said Dr Van Mil.
The team were thrilled with the outstanding progress Hitam had made in such a short time after the surgery.