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Leap a lucky kiwi

Leap a lucky kiwi

Leap waking from anaesthetic following surgery
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Leap a lucky kiwi

A team of top vet hospital staff has saved a tiny North Island brown kiwi by performing world-first surgery on the 600g chick.

Leap – a North Island brown kiwi hatched on February 29 at Kiwi Encounter, Rainbow Springs in Rotorua – arrived at the University’s wildlife ward with a luxated Achilles tendon, wildlife vet Kerri Morgan says.

“The group of tendons which make up the Achilles had slipped off the side of the hock. This twisted the foot and, because it had been like this for a few days, it had shortened the tendons.”

Because the op hadn’t been tried before at Massey University “and there are no books showing you where tendons run on kiwi”, Ms Morgan called in orthopaedic surgeon Andrew Worth. The pair were able to assess the tendons on a dead kiwi which had been sent to the wildlife health centre for post mortem examination, allowing them to see where the delicate tendons lay. “Which was good because they are quite structurally different,” Ms Morgan says.

Although more used to working with companion animals including dogs and cats, Mr Worth decided to try to save Leap.

After the veterinary teaching hospital’s anaesthetics team was called in, surgery then took place last Tuesday (27 May) and went well, with Leap monitored in the ward’s intensive care unit for several days. By Friday when it was clear Leap was recovering well, postgraduate wildlife veterinary resident Vonni Linley started physiotherapy three times daily to restore Leap’s range of movement.

Less than a week later, Leap is now on his way back to Rainbow Springs. “Usually we would have kept him for a bit longer,” Ms Morgan says, “But he comes from a place where they hatch a hundred kiwi chicks each year so their care is fantastic. Their animal husbandry is really good so it is a good idea to get him home.”

Leap flew back this morning, leaving Palmerston North at 9am and arriving in Rotorua via Auckland. Had surgery not been undertaken, the injury would have affected his mobility, making it more difficult for him to find food and ultimately making him easy prey for a stoat.

Leap was taken to Rainbow Springs as part of Operation Nest Egg, from his home near Cape Kidnappers. Operation Nest Egg takes wild kiwi eggs and chicks to be raised in secure crèches, until they are about 1.2kg and better able to survive in the wild.

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