Zoo veterinarians conduct routine procedures on a wide array of exotic animals. While it's common to perform surgery on a big cat, repair the shell of a turtle, or conduct ultrasounds on a tapir, our team encounters some patients that are not so ordinary. Recently, our vet team conducted surgery on a most unusual patient– a three-foot long fish!
Keepers noticed a growth under the jaw of one of the oldest fish in the River Tanks at our Unseen New World exhibit. This black arowana (Osteoglossum ferreirai) has been in the collection for over 16 years in perfect health. So when the mass continued to grow, it was decided that surgical intervention was necessary.
Arowana are armor-plated, muscular fish known for their jumping ability, so the keepers had to carefully train her to accept being cradled in a net without becoming stressed. It took several weeks of training and acclimating her to the net so when the day of surgery arrived, she was calm and cooperative. After being immersed in an anesthetic solution, the tumor was quickly and carefully removed and she was back to swimming in her tank in no time.
While the black arowana has made a full recovery and appears to be doing very well, keepers continue to closely monitor her for regrowth of the tumor. Veterinarians, technicians, and keepers all came together to perform this procedure on one of our most unusual patients!