LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Baram, the male Malayan tiger at Lufkin's Ellen Trout Zoo, is recovering after a team of veterinarians performed a three-hour orthopedic surgery to repair a fracture to the animal's right front leg earlier this month.
"It took a team of specialists to perform this difficult procedure, and we would like to express our gratitude and appreciation to Drs. McFadden, Ballow, and Syler for their efforts in assisting Dr. Nance with this critical surgery," said Gordon B. Henley Jr., the director of Ellen Trout Zoo.
While staff members were in the process of a continuing introduction of the zoo's two Malayan tigers on Nov. 3, Hana and Baram got into a "serious scuffle." Henley said Celia Falzone, the general curator, and Diana Crocker, the collection manager, were on hand when the 10-second fight took place.
Crocker used the noise from a fire extinguisher to startle the two tigers apart. After the zoo staffers got the two tigers separated, they noticed that Baram was not using his right front leg.
The zoo's staff veterinarian, Dr. Mike Nance was brought in to check on Baram. After staffers got the big cat immobilized, X-rays revealed that large, upper bone of the tiger's right front leg was fractured.
"The absence of bite wounds or claw marks suggests that he simply landed awkwardly," Henley said.
After zoo staff members decided that special orthopedic surgery was required, a team of veterinarians was assembled. Dr. Lindsay Syler of Angelina Animal Hospital provided crucial portable radiological and ultrasound equipment and provided support throughout the surgery.
The orthopedic team was led by Dr. Mike McFadden of North Houston Veterinary Specialists in Spring, a board-certified veterinary orthopedic surgeon who has experience working with big cats. He was assisted by Dr. Jim Ballow of East Texas Veterinary Services in Henderson. Coming into the surgery, Ballow also had extensive orthopedic experience.
In an effort to reduce the stress on Baram and the chances of further injury, the team of veterinarians did the surgery in the night holding area of Ellen Trout Zoo's big cat building. The surgery took more than three hours.
Ellen Trout Zoo staffers and Syler stayed with Baram late into the evening to make sure he was recovering from the surgery.
"Currently, Baram has limited mobility and is resting quietly in his bedroom at the zoo," Henley said. "Dr. Mike Nance, zoo staff veterinarian, continues to provide daily support and monitors Baram's progress. Recovery is expected to take about ten weeks."
According to the press release, Malayan tigers are critically endangered. It is estimated that there are only about 500 Malayan tigers left in the wild, and there are less than 60 in the United States. Both Hana and Baram are part of the AZA Species Survival Plan, and Ellen Trout Zoo was requested to help breed them to provide Malayan tigers for the future.