World First Hip Replacement for Orana’s Tasmanian Devil

Talei, a three-year-old Tasmanian devil, is the first of his kind to have had a full hip replacement!

Talei recently had his final post-surgery visual check-up by Dr Warrick Bruce, a specialist orthopaedic veterinary surgeon, who performed the ground breaking surgery in July. Orana’s Exotic Species Manager, Rachael Mason, says: “Talei is a middle-aged devil and suffered from a deteriorating hip joint causing severe pain and lameness. Our animal care and veterinary team implemented an initial treatment plan to manage the pain.

Subsequent x-rays revealed a grossly deformed hip joint which carried a poor long-term prognosis for Talei. Ongoing pain medication would not effectively manage his condition, thereby compromising his life expectancy.”

Orana’s Vet, Ben Davidson of Rangiora Vet Centre, adds: “The damage to his joint was severe where the outer layer of cartilage had eroded away meaning his joint was essentially bone rubbing on bone causing extreme discomfort. After consulting with our specialist surgeon, Dr Warrick Bruce, it was agreed that the best solution for Talei would be a full hip replacement, giving back a fully active and pain free life.”

“Dr Bruce is one of the few surgeons experienced in hip replacement surgery in animals in New Zealand. He was able to source the specialist instruments and implants required from the USA.

 

X-ray of the hip before surgery, photo credit: Orana Wildlife Park

 

X-ray of the hip after surgery, photo credit: Orana Wildlife Park

 

The operation took place at Rangiora Vet Centre and progressed perfectly. Talei has experienced a smooth, text-book, recovery from the surgery. We are delighted that he has responded so well to his new joint”, says Ben.

“The operation has been a very positive change for Talei. He is no longer on pain relief and has full use of his hip. Talei is a shy animal and is most active at night. Since being transferred from our hospital room back into his exhibit, we have tracked his overnight movements with night vision cameras and know that he is investigating his habitat, climbing structures and is behaving like a perfectly healthy devil."

"This operation has dramatically enhanced his quality of life”, comments Rachael. This surgery has significant implications for the management of endangered species. Talei has proven that this is a viable option and a fantastic alternative to long term pain relief or euthanasia.

“Obviously not all animals with a sore hip require a hip replacement but there are cases where this is the best option. A specialist veterinary surgeon is trained to recognise the cases where this surgical treatment will provide a favourable outcome”, concludes Ben.

Talei was transferred to Orana Wildlife Park from [email protected]dle in 2019 as part of the Save the Tasmanian Devil (STDP) Ambassador Programme for these endangered carnivorous marsupials. Orana first joined STDP in 2014.

“It is a privilege for us to care for these amazing animals and raise awareness on the plight of devils”, says Rachael.