Adelaide Zoo Orangutan Undergoes Operation

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: January 11, 2022 7:30 pm

Adelaide Zoo Orangutan Operation

Puspa the Sumatran orangutan is pictured at Adelaide Zoo

Photo Credit: Adrian Mann

An orangutan at Adelaide Zoo has undergone surgery after she became unwell with gallstones.

“Back in May, Sumatran Orangutan Puspa was looking far from her usual self for a few days. At one stage there, even a call from her favourite keepers couldn’t rouse her,” said Veterinarian David McLelland.


“Initially, we thought that Puspa might have been suffering from a reproductive tract problem, but couldn’t be sure without anaesthetising her to investigate further.


“Even though she recovered well from that initial episode, we decided to anaesthetise her for a full health check. Puspa is now an older lady, and it was preferable to do this while she was otherwise well in herself rather than wait for her to become unwell again.

Adelaide Zoo Orangutan Operation

The gallstones which were removed from Puspa during her recent surgery

Photo Credit: Zoos SA

For her examination Puspa went on a trip outside of the zoo to the nearby SA Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI). Here vets were able to make use of the advanced medical equipment.

“Once under anaesthetic, we transported her to SAHMRI’s Preclinical, Imaging and Research Laboratories (PIRL) for a CT scan, along with a complete range of blood tests, and a thorough physical exam. For this procedure we consulted with human gynaecologists, had rheumatologists and an occupational therapist from Uni SA investigate some concerns in her hands and feet, and had Anthony Nicholson, veterinary anaesthetist at the University of Adelaide, assisting.


“Xander Huising, veterinary diagnostic imaging specialist, helped with the CT scan, which revealed a number of gallstones, along with inflammation of the bile duct and gallbladder, but no reproductive tract abnormalities.

“We knew that it was in Puspa’s best interests to have surgery, so we were delighted to have Dr John Chen, Director of SA Liver Transplant Unit at Flinders Medical Centre, and Dr Eu Ling Neo, Head of Hepatopancreatobiliary Surgery at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, agree to assist us.


“We discussed the pros and cons of the various procedures performed in humans with gallstones, based on the CT findings and on our patient being an orangutan.

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Vets decided to take on the surgery and once again SAHMRI stepped in to help with the surgery.

“The approach we decided on gave us the best chance of removing all the stones and the gallbladder in one procedure and minimise the risk of complications during and after surgery.


“The wonderful team at SAHMRi-PIRL again allowed us to use their facilities for the surgery. Puspa could not have been in better hands on the operating table with Dr Chen and Dr Neo volunteering their time to perform the surgery, with assistance from Kerryn Carter, scrub nurse at Flinders Private Hospital. A number of required consumables were also donated by Flinders Private Hospital.


“Additionally, the procedure was greatly enhanced by the use of a high tech videoscope, made available to us by Endotherapeutics Pty Ltd, to allow detailed exploration of the bile duct.


“Surgery was definitely the right decision. The surgeons removed nine sizeable gallstones along with a very unhappy looking gallbladder. You have to think Puspa will feel better to be relieved of all that. And it has been so great to be able to pull together such a fabulous and diverse team to provide Puspa with the best possible care.


“Puspa has recovered very well since surgery under the watchful eye of her wonderful keepers, and has been very good at leaving her stitches alone. While she can’t tell us directly that she is feeling better, she is eating really well and has been out and about and climbing,” finished David.

Puspa is 46 years old having been born at Perth Zoo in 1975. She moved to Adelaide Zoo in 2011. Her home is shared with a male orangutan, Kluet.

Learn more about Sumatran Orangutans here – Sumatran Orangutan Fact File | The Animal Facts

Learn more about the Adelaide Zoo on their website – Adelaide Zoo

Adelaide Zoo Orangutan Operation

Puspa during her surgery to remove her gall bladder

An X-ray of Puspa prior to her surgery showing the gallstones

Photo Credit: Zoos SA

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