The heartbeat of Manukura the white kiwi dropped away this afternoon, when the rare white bird was almost an hour and a half into surgery to remove a large lodged stone.
''I can't hear it,'' said veterinary nurse Angelina Martelli as she listened to her stethoscope, before emergency medicine was injected to speed the bird's heart back up.
Manukura, believed to be the first all-white chick to be hatched in captivity, had the large stone removed from her gizzard today at the Otago School of Medicine in Newtown.
A small endoscope was inserted via the bird's beak to locate the stone, which enabled a surgeon to bombard it with laser zaps in an attempt to break it into smaller pieces.
But, after almost an hour and a half, a small bang was heard and the bird's heartbeat dropped away.
Wellington Hospital urologist Rod Studd, who performed the surgery, said the event prompted the medical team to stop trying to break the stone up, and successfully attempt to pull the stone out.
''It might have been a little pocket of gas exploding or the laser fibre might have just overheated and popped. It seemed to coincide with the kiwi suddenly growing green around the gills.''
Wellington Zoo veterinary sciences manager Dr Lisa Argilla, who was part of the medical team, said Manukura's heart had become weak after the long procedure.
''She was a little bit cold and after a long procedure her heart just got a little bit weak and slowed down. But Angelina was monitoring it the entire time so she picked up on it and told me and I was able to give her an emergency drug.''
''It's still stressful, just to make sure that she will recover fully. There's always the risk of infection with all the grazes in her stomach from that stone.''
The stone was too big to pass naturally, and the endoscope operation had avoided painful surgery, with higher risks of infection.
''It would have pretty much jammed up her intestine or it could have caused other perforation which tears the intestine.''
''It looked pretty tiny when you pull it out but with the size of the bird, I guess you could compare it to a human having eaten a golf ball.''
Manukura would be tested over the next week before being returned to the Department of Conservation Pukaha Mount Bruce national wildlife centre in the Wairarapa.
- The Dominion Post
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