Chief Executive’s Blog

August 26, 2014 § Leave a comment


Dear readers,

This week, I wanted to tell you a little bit more about the work of one of our resident veterinary surgeons, Romain Pizzi.

Romain Pizzi, Veterinary Surgeon

Romain Pizzi, Veterinary Surgeon

On Wednesday evening, BBC programme “Operation Wild” gave a first-hand insight to some of Romain’s recent surgeries. Viewers watched with bated breath as he performed ground-breaking keyhole surgery in Laos on moon bear Champa who was constantly in pain from fluid building up in her brain. It’s always interesting to think about how surgeries are performed in such remote locations – as in this case, unstable conditions need to be adapted to and it’s always a case of thinking on your feet! A tube was successfully implanted into her brain which drained the excess fluid into her abdomen. After her recovery, it was fantastic to see her reunite and play with the gentleman who rescued her as a three month old cub. Back in London, Romain took on the delicate task of investigative keyhole surgery on a Galapagos tortoise. Unable to drill through the shell as it would take years to repair, the tortoise was placed onto her side and the surgery was explored through the side of her leg.

Even though he’s officially on holiday, Romain is still a very busy man. He’s currently at Chanchung Zoo in the Jilin province in the North of China where he, alongside the University of Edinburgh and Animals Asia, are teaching zoo veterinarians from the Chinese Association of Zoo Gardens (CAZG). More than 70 vets attend this biennial conference which helps improve the knowledge and clinical skills of vets working in zoos across China. This year, one focus was to teach the use of thermal imaging to assess dental and arthritis problems in zoo elephants. Romain also spent time in the Southwest of China at the giant panda centres in Dujiangyan and Bifengxia which are run by the Chinese Centres for Research and Conservation of Giant Pandas (CCRCGP). Here, as part of the joint research agreement between RZSS and CCRCGP, he investigated potential benefits of minimally invasive surgery on giant pandas both at the centre and in the wild.

Velu with mum Heleen in Budongo Trail

Velu with mum Heleen in Budongo Trail

This week at Edinburgh Zoo, we were delighted to see our chimpanzees all together again as new mother Heleen and eight week old son Velu were welcomed back into the troop. After his birth, we slowly integrated Heleen and Velu back into the main chimpanzee group – starting first with other females and her closest male allies before slowly building up to where we are now. Velu is a French word for hairy and if you manage to catch a glimpse of him, which is quite difficult as Heleen cradles him very close to her chest, you will certainly be able to see why!

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