SEE: 7 images of a gastric peg tube used to save a baby pangolin

2018-10-30 20:53

In a world first, wildlife vets in Johannesburg have managed to use a gastric peg tube to try to save a rescued baby Temminck's ground pangolin who is desperately ill.

Carers have named the pangolin Menina. She is about three months old. She was brought to the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital in Midrand earlier this month.
Weighing just 2.4kg, Menina had been in captivity for at least a week before her rescue. She probably received no food or water, vet Karin Lourens told News24.

The tube placed straight into the pangolin’s stomach. (Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital, Facebook)

Feeding the animal, who should still be with her mother, posed a problem.

Getting a feeding tube down a pangolin’s mouth isn’t possible while its awake since it curls up into a ball.

Lourens explains that anaesthetizing Menina in order to put a feeding tube into her mouth wouldn't work either.

For a pangolin the size of Menina, "we would have to do this 3-4 times a day for them to get in enough calories. Anaesthetizing them so many times a day is not safe," she said.

So the team opted for a gastric tube.

Labour-intensive job

“The gastric peg tube was the first one placed in a pangolin ever,” explained Lourens.

“This enables us to feed her without having to sedate her. The tube can stay in long term until she is strong enough to eat by herself.”

(Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital, Facebook)

Pictures shared on the hospital’s Facebook page show Menina lying on her back for the operation, her soft underbelly exposed and covered with monitoring pads. Initially Menina did well.

But on Tuesday her survival looked far from certain. She's now also on a drip.

If Menina does survive she’ll be kept in captivity until she gains about another two-and-a-half kg.

That in itself is a labour-intensive job, explains Lourens.

This bit goes through the mouth into the stomach so it doesn't need to be sterile. (Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital, Facebook)

Rescued ground pangolins have to be accompanied by a minder for between six and eight hours a day so that they can feed on live ants and termites.

Unlike their Asian cousins, they can’t eat dried ones.

 “Then she will have a tracking device attached to one of her scales and she will be followed for at least six months, post-release,” said Lourens.

“We will definitely use [the gastric tube] again,” Lourens said. “These animals are now being poached to extinction... we will not stop at anything to ensure their survival.”

(Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital, Facebook)
Dr Alain Carter, a small animal medicine specialist with years of experience, with the scope. (Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital, Facebook)
Monitoring equipment as for human anesthesia while the procedure is being done. (Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital, Facebook)
(Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital, Facebook)

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