A media update from the Sabah Wildlife Department: Wildlife officials and rhino conservationists breathed a big sigh of relief today (19 April 2017) after successful surgery on Puntung, one of only two female Sumatran rhinos still alive in Malaysia. Puntung had been suffering since mid March from an abscess that would not heal despite treatment. Thai veterinary dentist Dr Tum Chinkangsadarn extracted two molar teeth and one premolar from Puntung’s left upper jaw during an operation that in total lasted two hours and twenty minutes on the morning of 19 April.
“This was a remarkable and successful operation that came about as a result of global discussion and multi-national collaboration over the past two weeks” said Sabah Wildlife Department Director Mr Augustine Tuuga.
“Sabah thanks Dr Tum and the team who had not worked together before but who did a fantastic job. Dr Abraham Mathew, senior veterinarian from Singapore zoo helped with anaesthesia. Dr Johan Marais and Dr Zoe Glyphis of South Africa based “Saving the Survivors” initiated the planning, advised on procedures and provided major financial support to ensure that the team got together in Tabin. We had vets in attendance and assisting from my Department as well as Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo Rhino Alliance.”
The procedure started at 7 am with X-rays done under sedation. Then Puntung was put under general anesthesia for 110 minutes. Dr Tum noted severe calcification of one large molar, which is where bacteria initially accumulated and led to the abscess. The calcification had also loosened two adjacent teeth.
Borneo Rhino Alliance veterinarian Dr Zainal Z Zainuddin said “We are so relieved and very grateful to Dr Tum, “Saving the Survivors” and the specialist vets who have given Puntung a new lease of life. Incredibly, she started feeding within two hours of the operation ending. But we are not done yet. There will be a period of post operation care which will mean trying to keep Puntung clean, stress-free and under medication including for pain relief.”