An Operation on Amanzi

Amanzi, the father of Blake and Trinity, the first ever Wattle Cranes bred successfully in captivity, broke his wing last weekend, much to the dismay of the Hlatikulu Crane Sanctuary where he lives.

r Elvi and Amanzi Photo 1


Mike Harwich – vet and writer tells the story (reproduced from his blog: Paul Herwood took the pictures.

In my entire career I have never been called on to work on an animal as endangered as a Wattled Crane, and this Sunday was a truly humbling experience when I was called on by Ann Burke of the KZN Crane Foundation.  This is the tale:

We have been extremely busy, but no real interesting cases – just the usual veterinary work. Or so it was until Sunday afternoon….  At about 3 pm I got a telephone call from a client who was at the Hlatikulu Crane Sanctuary and there was a major problem with one of the breeding Wattled Cranes. Ann, the curator, believed the bird had a broken wing.

I discussed the case with her and said that it would be easy to amputate the wing as I had done to Flightless (a goose) several months ago. That suggestion did not go down at all well. ‘Mike, this bird is the ONLY NATURALLY BREEDING MALE in captivity and he cannot perform without his wings being functional.’ That quickly brought me to my senses! At whatever cost the wing had to be saved and it had to be functional.

I suggested to Ann that they strap the wing and get their usual vet to look at the bird on Monday. That suggestion was also quickly rejected. ‘This bird, called Amanzi, and his mate are rearing a single chick and it is imperative that he is fixed and returned to be with his family as soon as possible’ came an anxious reply. Ann and Peter loaded Amanzi into a vehicle and after a long drive arrived at the clinic.

On examination it was readily apparent that Amanzi had a compound fracture of his right humerus. The cause of the fracture could not be ascertained.

Ananzi-Wattled-Crane01Mike examining Amanzi

We would have to do emergency surgery.

Then the obvious problems arose – I had never done any anaesthetics on these birds and his physical condition was not all that easy to assess (I wasn’t sure how much shock he had suffered).

Ann, being an acclaimed scientist, knew all the necessary websites – thank goodness for the internet –  it was not like that in years gone by. We had all the necessary drugs in stock so prepared ourselves for what could be a complicated and lengthy process.

A tranquiliser was initially given and we waited, and waited and waited. It had very little effect and eventually a second dose was given. Once again there was far from adequate tranquilisation after 30 minutes.


Mike injecting Amanzi with a sedative

By way of a hood, gaseous anaesthetic was given and in a few minutes Amanzi was ready for surgery.


Mike preparing Amanzi for surgery

The area was cleaned and disinfected and Amanzi transferred to the operating table. The compound fracture was cleaned as best we could. Fortunately there was very little extraneous matter present – no mud or dust!


Mike operating on Amanzi with Ann’s assistance

A stainless steel pin was pushed up the bone until it came out at the shoulder joint. The pin was then retro-graded and the bone aligned so that the pin went right down the centre of the bone, crossing the fractured area. It was then gently pushed into the dense bone of the elbow joint. The pin was then cut to a satisfactory length.  At the fracture there was a splinter of bone that was fairly large and this was tightly wired onto the shaft of the bone.


Mike’s handwork on Amanzi

The wound was sutured closed and the anaesthetic was stopped. An antidote to the tranquiliser was given and we waited for Amanzi to regain consciousness.  Whilst waiting for the bird to come out of anaesthetic, the damaged wing was firmly strapped to the body so as to offer more support.


Mike and Ann after the successful operation on Amanzi

Once he had woken enough (and we were able to relax a little) Amanzi was taken back to his pen in the Kamberg.  The next morning he was a little under the weather but strutted around in the pen next to his family. This was a precautionary measure in case he was attacked by his mate – strange smells or the bright coloured bandage could precipitate such an attack.


Amanzi safely back at Hlatikulu Pen after his operation

We now anxiously await the outcome of the operation. All should be well and hopefully the drugs that were given will combat any possible infection. We will know in about three weeks as to just how well he is healing.  Holding thumbs!

In all my career I have never been called on to work on an animal as endangered as these birds and it was a truly humbling experience which I sincerely hope goes according to a quickly initiated plan – we cannot afford to lose the only captive breeding male Wattled Crane left in the world!

Amanzi safely back at Hlatikulu Pen after operation


5 thoughts on “An Operation on Amanzi

  1. Karkloof Conservancy

    We look forward to hearing some good news about Amanzi’s recovery!! Well done to Mike and Ann for looking after him so well and mending his fractured wing. Wattled Cranes are precious and we feel blessed to see them in the wild every day!


  2. David Clulow

    A very emotional accident; and some sterling work by caring people to put things right. Many of us will be hoping fervently for a complete recovery.


  3. Pingback: Ann Burke – Crane Lady | Midlands Conservancies Forum

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