By Jenessa Gjeltema, DVM, Dipl. ACZM
When Orzo’s caretakers noticed that he was holding his left hind leg up when walking, both his keepers and the veterinary team were concerned that he may have sustained an injury to his leg. Lemurs are often very acrobatic, frequently leaping from branch-to-branch or even dangling from their hind limbs at the top of their exhibit. To figure out why Orzo was holding his leg up, the veterinary team conducted a thorough examination of Orzo under anesthesia where they checked his bloodwork, obtained radiographs (X-rays) of his legs, and carefully inspected his joints. The results indicated that Orzo had partially ruptured his patellar tendon, which holds the kneecap in its correct position and is important for controlling a leg’s movement. Surgery was recommended to help Orzo regain his ability to walk and move around normally with his injured leg.
The Sacramento Zoo has a long-standing partnership with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. This partnership allows the animals at the zoo to receive the highest quality care from specialists at the top-ranked veterinary school in the world. It also helps eager veterinary students from the school receive training for the care of zoological species under the guidance of the veterinary team at the zoo. Through this unique partnership, Orzo was able to receive the surgery that would give him the best chance of recovery from his injury.
Dr. Marcellin-Little and Dr. Kapatkin, both veterinary surgical specialists, worked together with Dr. Gjeltema and Dr. Wack, both specialists in zoological medicine, to come up with the best plan for Orzo. He was transported from the Sacramento Zoo to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine where he was anesthetized, received additional radiographs, and then underwent surgery. Using specialized equipment available at the veterinary school, the team was able to repair the injury by giving Orzo an artificial implant that replaces the ruptured tendon. Following the surgery, Orzo returned home, staying in the zoo’s hospital overnight under the watchful care of the veterinary team.
Orzo has since returned to a room near his fellow lemurs, where he can “take it easy” while he continues to heal following his surgery. Once he has had ample time to recover, it is expected that Orzo will be able to rejoin his family and friends on exhibit. Orzo is already using the leg more and while it is possible that he may retain a little limp from the injury, we are glad that through the Sacramento Zoo’s partnership with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, we were able to give him the best chance for recovery with this surgery.