Fri, Apr 13, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Veterinarian might keep croc-mauled arm

REPTILIAN REVENGE Doctors said there was a good chance Chang Po-yu would be able to keep his arm after it was ripped off by a crocodile that was playing possum

STAFF WRITER , WITH AFP

Doctors said yesterday that a veterinarian at Shoushan Zoo in Kaohsiung City who had his left forearm bitten off while trying to treat a crocodile on Wednesday has an 80 percent chance of keeping his surgically reattached limb.

Chang Po-yu (張博宇) mistakenly thought the crocodile was sedated, because he had shot the crocodile with antibiotic darts instead of tranquilizers.

He underwent emergency surgery on Wednesday at Chung Ho Memorial Hospital after his severed arm was recovered from the crocodile and rushed to the hospital.

Zoo personel tried unsuccessfully for an hour to sedate the crocodile following the incident. Police then arrived and shot the crocodile twice with a 9mm pistol, at which point the crocodile released the arm.

Police were concerned that they might violate the Wildlife Conservation Law (野生動物保育法) by shooting the crocodile, which is an endangered species, so they waited until they received permission from Jason Hung (洪富峰), the executive director of Kaohsiung's commission for research, development and evaluation, before firing.

Chang was rushed to hospital where the limb, recovered from the crocodile, was delivered some 80 minutes after the incident to the operating theater.

After the surgery, he was seen on television smiling and waving to reporters with his healthy arm from his hospital bed, where he also reportedly tried to comfort his panic-stricken mother.

His girlfriend wept through the operation, TV news reported, which said friends were worried how soon Chang would be able resume his hobby of playing the piano.

Chang is known for his devotion to the zoo's animals, the reports said. In 2001 he reportedly jumped into the cage of a lion to guide it to safety during a flood.

Local television also showed footage of him weeping when an elephant died suddenly in the zoo several years ago.

Surgeons said the surgery had been difficult because Chang's muscles and blood vessels had been badly torn and dislocated, necessitating transplants. They said that despite thorough cleaning, infection could be a concern because of the large area of the wound, bacteria in the crocodile's mouth and gangrene.

Doctors said they would have to see how Chang progresses over the next week or two. It could take years and multiple surgeries before Chang regains full use of the arm.

Zoo personel discovered yesterday morning that the Nile crocodile did not appear to be wounded, and surmised that the bullets from the 9mm pistol had not penetrated its skin. They said it responded as fiercely as ever when they prodded it with bamboo poles and sprayed it with a hose this morning, and decided it did not need treatment.

However, crocodile expert Chiu Hsi-ho (邱錫河) said that the bullets would definitely penetrate the crocodile's 0.5cm-thick skin. Although the bullets had evidently not struck any vital organs, they still needed to be removed, he said.

Animal protection groups also criticized the zoo as the worst managed in the country and urged passage of a zoo law to protect the safety of animals and workers.

Chen Yu-min (陳玉敏), director of the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan, said that past investigations had shown the zoo's planning and management to be a mess, with many animals living in conditions unsuited to them.

For example, Alaskan brown bears accustomed to the cold have lost all their fur from living in the heat and mud.

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