Elephant faces mammoth surgery for infected tusk
(31 Oct 2018) LEADIN:
A zoo elephant has successfully undergone a mammoth five-hour operation to remove an infected tusk in Georgia's capital Tbilisi.
Grandi's tusks were damaged when he was moved from another zoo when he was an infant and they've been giving him pain ever since.
For years Grandi has been struggling with tusk problems.
But recently the pain has become much worse for the 21 year-old elephant, with one tusk becoming badly infected.
Both were damaged when he was being transported between zoos as an infant and have been causing him problems ever since.
"He (Grandi) was taken from Moscow zoo to Yerevan zoo when he was only three years old and during the transportation he broke both tusks and afterwards the infectious processes took place and he is in a very serious condition," says Zurab Gurielidze, director of Tbilisi zoo where Grandi has lived since 2014.
Grandi had one infected tusk removed in a 2014 operation but due to complications with the anaesthetic, surgeons were unable to remove the other.
Four years on, he's about to face the same operation.
But this time a new combination of drugs are being administered that should have fewer side effects. Zoo keepers say it took Grandi 11 hours to wake up after the last operation in 2014, putting his life in danger.
Senior zoo advisor, Marjo Hoedemakep says they're not taking any chances this time around.
"If you operate on an animal like this then it's technical. We have one of the best guys in the world here, but sedation, to put him down is one thing, but to get up is another thing. The point is that if you operate on humans then you can take some research before. And with an elephant it is not possible. So, you do not exactly know what the condition of his heart is and all other organs. So, there is always a big kind of risk," he says.
For five hours, surgeons worked to remove the majority of what was left of the elephant's broken tusk.
Soon after the operation, Grandi was slowly able to get back on his feet, though still a little groggy.
The surgeons and zoo staff say he has bounced back remarkably well.
"We are very satisfied with how the operation went. It was quite a difficult extraction with the tusk being so chronically infected. I was very pleased with my anesthetist and with the way they did the anaesthetic. We were little bit worried about using different drug combinations but it worked really well. He stood up well, it's how we expect to do elephants. So, there was a lot of concern about him not being able to stand up and all of these things but I think it's probably was the combination of drugs they used previously. Everything went according to plan," says surgeon Gerhard Steenkamp.
However, there is still a small piece of dentin left inside which could not be removed.
If things get worse, Grandi could face another surgery in few years time.
"So there is a small, a very small chance that we're worried that there might be some complication in future but he's much better off now and we will wait and see how he responds and if in two or three years time there is still a little bit of a problem then we can always do another procedure," says anaesthesiologist Adrian S.W. Tordiffe.
It could take up to 18 months for him to make a full recovery, but Grandi can rest easier now that the infection has been removed.
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