Wellington Zoo has written itself into the veterinary history books after performing the world's second successful caesarean section on a giraffe.
The zoo's giraffe Zahara was pregnant at the start of the year and due to give birth in March.
When she went into labour there was little progress and an emergency caesarean section was performed on March 10.
Unfortunately the calf was already dead, but Zahara survived and has recovered well.
There are only two giraffe caesarean sections recorded in veterinary literature and only one, published in 2007, where the mother survived the surgery.
The 2007 paper claimed to be the first successful giraffe caesarean section.
The zoo's manager of veterinary science Dr Lisa Argilla said the low success rate of giraffe caesarean sections was because they were the hardest animals to put under an anesthetic.
"There's a lot of blood pressure considerations and they've very long legs and the long neck," she said.
"It's a tonne of animal falling down, so there's the risk of injury when they fall down and when they wake up.
"This is because when they wake up they're still a bit wobbly and their instinct is to stand up."
The one-and-a-half-hour operation was performed by a large team, including eight veterinarians, zoo keepers and Massey University's specialist surgeon and anaesthetist.
Dr Argilla said she believed their surgery was a success because they made the call to operate quickly.
"Where we went right was that we jumped in soon," she said.
"We didn't leave it for a few days so that by the time we came to a decision she was so exhausted she probably would have died.
"She went under her anaesthetic still strong and that definitely gave us the edge.
"Also the fact that everyone was co-ordinated and knew what their job was helped."
She said the scariest part of the surgery was waking Zahara up from the anesthetic.
"With a giraffe you want to prevent them from getting up to soon because that's when they can stumble and fall and injure themselves," she said.
"We had two brave and strong men hanging on to her head and the idea is you have to just hang on until you can not hang on to her any longer.
"That's often when the giraffe is stable enough to get up and not fall so it is the safe time to let them go.
"But that's a very dangerous period for both the giraffe and the handlers because obviously they are hanging on to a one-tonne animal that can just chuck them off at any time."
Massey University supplied an equine anaesthetic machine for the operation.
"It has a huge respirator attached which we found really handy because it breathed for her," Dr Argilla said.
"Under an anaesthetic a lot of animals will stop breathing, it's a normal part of an anaesthetic, but you would have to be almost jumping on the bag to breath for her, she's massive.
"So it was quite good to have some of that really big specialist equipment."
A paper on the procedure will be written in conjunction with Massey University's veterinary department, which helped the surgery, to share information with veterinarians around the world.
"We can describe why we think ours went well so that when other veterinarians are faced with it, the information is there."
- The Wellingtonian