LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A young jaguar born at the Ellen Trout Zoo in August is back at the zoo after recovering from an amputation surgery after a severe injury to his right forelimb in November.
According to Zoo Director Gordon Henley, Balam injured the limb on Nov. 29 after he managed to "reach that limb in with his mother."
Zoo veterinarian Dr. Mike Nance explained that Balam climbed a wooden barrier designed to keep Balam separated from his mother and the mother bit his limb.
"It's exactly like having a baby," said Nance. "Babies will always find a way to get in trouble. The barrier was secure and we took all of the precautions, but things still happen.
Henley said when workers checked on Balam at 8:30 a.m. that day, when they came back, he has his paw through the fence. His keeper immediately removed him from the area called Nance.
"I ran up to the clinic and met them there," said Nance. "The limb was in really bad shape."
Nance said his bone was fractured and all the muscle mass was cut and the limb was only attached by some skin and his brachial artery.
Nance worked throughout the day to re-attach the limb and it appeared the surgery was successful.
"36 hours later, it started to swell a little bit and we knew things were starting to get bad," Nance said.
Henley said Nance consulted with Dr. Lindsay Syler of Angelina Animal Hospital and they decided to amputate the limb, in order to save Balam's life.
Because Syler could provide around-the-clock care, Balam stayed at Angelina Hospital after the surgery.
"Due to the devoted staff we have here at the zoo and the assistance of Dr. Syler and the Angelina Animal Hospital, Balam got as good of care as he could've gotten anywhere," said Henley.
He returned to the zoo on Tuesday, where he will continue to recover.
About a month after the surgery, Balam is thriving.
"When he moves and runs, he compensates and gets by very well," Henley said.
According to zoo officials, Balam appears to be in good health and even better spirits.
"I see no sadness, no depression, no lethargy, he's just a little bundle of joy," Nance said.
Nance said Balam was separated from his mother just after birth, because the mother did not take care of him. Balam has been hand-reared since birth.
Henley said staff is working to determine what exhibit Balam will live in once he has recovered.
Nance said this will not affect Balam's ability to breed in the future.