Wildlife Surgery

Surgery of wild animals that need to be returned to the wild demands the highest levels of surgical expertise, as animals have to be 100% fit to survive in the wild, avoid predators or catch prey. A peregrine falcon or cheetah that is only 95% as good as before surgery will almost certainly not survive when returned to the wild. Animals such as these are supremely athletic, and a tiny drop in ability will make the difference between catching enough to survive and starving to death. These patients need a level of surgery success that is much higher than that needed in human surgery, and certainly greater than that of pet animals like dogs and cats. This poses specific challenges, and these are not familiar to even specialist pet vet surgeons, or leading human surgeons.

New techniques and even equipment has needed to be invented at times, and outcomes validated to prevent inadvertent harm to wildlife patients, even by well-meaning surgery.

This is a video of an endoscopy in a critically endangered (IUCN) Angel shark (Squatina squatina). The only adult breeding female in captivity, she had given birth to one live baby, then had made no progress over the following 3 weeks, and became weak, lethargic and anorexic. A large number of babies were gently delivered by hand, and the endoscope was used to check how many remained and their position, to allow their gentle delivery with the least discomfort and stress to mother and babies.