Rhino Surgery

By: Jessica Aspiras Email
By: Jessica Aspiras Email

It took close to 40 people to perform surgery on a single patient Monday. That's because it was 2,500 pound patient named Ebony -- a black rhino at Potter Park Zoo.

"She could've stepped on something weird. She could've laid funny, got on a rock, something stuck in the wrong area," says Potter Park Zoo Head Veterinarian Dr. Tara Harrison.

A team of veterinarians and assistants went to work on the 14-year-old, because an infection in her toenail failed to clear up after weeks of antibiotics. It's the first time an animal that large has been anaesthetized at the zoo.

"When there's an infection you need to open up the infection and basically allow for drainage. So basically we had to go to the source of the infection and we cleared it out thorougly," explains Harrison.

Ebony's procedure, which was completed in just 60 minutes, took place in the green barn located behind the rhino exhibit.

"Usually we try and keep it confined to about an hour's time. That's a good working time. I've had them down for a couple of hours. But every minute past an hour, you're reducing the chances they're going to get back up and be okay again," says Dr. Albert Lewandowski of the Cleveland Zoo.

The rhino's reproductive system was also examined during surgery since she's been unable to become pregnant.

"She actually had a lot of fluid in her uterus so we had to open that up more to allow the fluid to drain out. After all the fluid's drained out, it's possible she may get pregnant later," says Dr. Harrison.

Adds Dr. Lewandowski, "Black rhinos have decreased dramatically in the wild. And so every single calf we can get is important."

It's possibility the zoo is looking forward to. Ebony will be back in her exhibit in a couple of weeks.

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