Mango, a 19-year-old Syria brown bear, underwent an unprecedented surgery Wednesday at the Ramat Gan Zoological Center to repair a herniated vertebra causing paralysis in his hind legs.
"This type of surgery is usually conducted on humans and small animals, but this one is unprecedented on such a big animal," Dr. Merav Shamir, the veterinarian who conducted the operation, told Ynetnews.
The surgery, which was conducted at the Wildlife Hospital at the Ramat Gan Safari, lasted nine hours, with participation of no less than 36 people - 25 safari care takers carried Mango, eight assisted in the operation and three veterinarians operated on her.
Mango, who was born and raised at the Safari, was put under anesthesia for tests a week ago. After five hours of x-rays and various tests, the veterinarian medical team discovered a herniated disc between vertebrae T2-T3, zoo spokeswoman Sagit Horowitz told Ynetnews.
Mango's care takers decided to conduct the x-rays after they noticed he was dragging his hind legs. 48 hours later, Mango's hind legs were completely paralyzed.
Dr. Merav Shamir, an expert in veterinarian neurology and neurosurgery of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital of the Hebrew University at Beit Dagan, was called in to examine the bear.
"When I tested Mango I discovered he was suffering from a spinal cord injury in his chest area and I knew his only option was surgery," Shamir said.
The surgery proved to be quite a challenge due to the sheer size of the bear, who weights 250-kilo (550-pound).
"One of the major issues we had in this surgery was the anesthesia. It is a very complicate mission to know and understand how much anesthetics are needed in order to put such a heavy animal to sleep for long enough, while at the same time keeping it alive," Shamir said.
The zoo recruited the help of Dr. Yishai Kushnir, an expert anesthesiologist.
Kushnir "did a wonderful job with Mango allowing it to undergo a nine-hour surgery without any life threatening incidents," Shamir noted.
"We are going to watch him closely, and, because of various obstacles in his usual environment, we arranged a more comfortable surroundings for him until he makes a full recovery," Shamir added.