Pygmy Hippo Surgery


“Aubergine,” the pygmy hippopotamus that became a media star and visitor favorite at Zoo Miami when he was born on August 4th of last year, underwent critical surgery yesterday to repair a birth defect that had the potential of becoming a life-threatening condition.

A prestigious team of physicians and veterinarians pooled their skills to repair a secondary palate defect in Aubergine where his soft pallet was abnormally short, allowing food to enter the nasal cavity when the young hippo swallowed. Dr. Brandon Rein, a Board Certified human anesthesiologist, worked with Zoo Miami veterinarians, Dr. Gwen Myers, Dr. Gaby Flacke, Dr. Jimmy Johnson, and Dr. Marisa Bezjian, to manage Aubergine’s anesthesia while also collecting blood, inserting catheters, and clearing the nasal passages. Human plastic surgeon, Dr. Miguel Medina of the Miami Cancer Center teamed up with Dr. Raul Cortes of the Miami Hand Center and veterinary surgeon, Dr. Brianna Danielson and her team to surgically extend Aubergine’s soft palate in hopes of preventing the intrusion of food into the nasal cavities which could lead to serious respiratory complications.

The entire procedure took approximately 3 hours and following the surgery, Aubergine was safely returned to his barn where he was reunited with his mother and is back on his feet, apparently recovering well.

Now weighing just over 125 pounds, the young hippo has already gained more than ten times his birthweight and continues to grow at a rapid rate. For the next two weeks, he will be kept off exhibit and fed soft foods so that the sutures in his extended palate can heal. Though the doctors are cautiously optimistic about the surgery, only time will tell if it was a success.

Video Credit: Ron Magill

Author: Rich