(ANIMAL SCIENCE) Champa, a three-year-old Asiatic black bear, recently became the first of her kind to undergo brain surgery. The black bear—also known as a moon bear—was becoming erratic, not socializing with other bears, and slowly going blind. In most countries she would have been put to sleep, but in Laos—where strong Buddhist traditions of animal and human equality are put in place—this was not an option. So instead, Champa underwent six hours of keyhole surgery. The lucky moon bear is now successfully recovering at the Free the Bears sanctuary and has even begun to socialize. Read on to find out more about this wonderful medical pioneer. — Global Animal
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Champa is the first of her kind to undergo brain surgery. Photo Credit: Daily Mail

James Rush, Daily Mail 

A three-year-old Asiatic black bear has been hailed a medical pioneer after becoming the first of her kind to undergo brain surgery.

Champa, who lives at a sanctuary in the mountains of northern Laos, had always stood out after she was rescued as a cub due to her protruding forehead and difficulties socialising with other bears.

When her behaviour became more erratic and her vision faded, vets and staff at the Free the Bears sanctuary, situated about 20 miles south of Luang Prabang, started to suspect hydrocephalus, or ‘water on the brain’, which is described as similar to having a ‘constant migraine’.

While in most Western countries an animal with the condition would be put down, the strong Buddhist traditions in Laos, and the technicalities of its wildlife protection laws, meant this was not an option, the National Geographic has reported.

Champa underwent six hours of keyhole surgery, carried out by South African veterinary surgeon Pizzi, who works at the Edinburgh Zoo, in Scotland.

During the procedure, in February, the vet drilled a small hole behind one of the bear’s ears and used an ultrasound probe to confirm she was hydrocephalic.

He then inserted a thin tube into the brain and threaded it under her skin to her abdomen. It will remain in place to drain excess cerebrospinal fluid into the abdominal cavity, where it can be easily absorbed.

Matt Hunt, chief executive of Free the Bears, told National Geographic that by the following morning Champa was awake and ‘looking like a very different bear’.

He said: ‘There was a lot more recognition. We can’t know if her vision is fully recovered, but everyone certainly believes her vision has improved.’

The sanctuary protects bears rescued by Lao officials from wildlife traffickers. 

The Asiatic black bear, or moon bear, is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Its bile is considered a valuable ingredient in traditional Chinese and Korean medicine.

National Geographic has reported how six weeks after the operation, Champa is gaining weight and is more active and social.

More Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2308288/Bear-sore-head-Champa-hailed-medical-pioneer-world-undergo-brain-surgery.html