Kiwi's heart misses beat as team operates

GOING UNDER: Dr Lisa Argilla holds Manukura after an endoscope operation at Wellington Hospital.
GOING UNDER: Dr Lisa Argilla holds Manukura after an endoscope operation at Wellington Hospital.

A rare white kiwi made it through a long laser operation to remove a lodged stone, but not without a scare towards the end.

A small "bang" sounded after almost an hour and a half into the procedure yesterday and the heartbeat of Manukura the Wairarapa kiwi dropped away.

"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 stone removed from her gizzard at the Otago School of Medicine in Newtown.

An endoscope was inserted via the bird's beak to find the stone, which enabled a surgeon to bombard it with laser zaps in an attempt to break it into smaller pieces.

Wellington Hospital urologist Rod Studd, who performed the surgery, said the dropped heart rate prompted the medical team to stop trying to break up the stone, 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 going green around the gills, he said.

Wellington Zoo vet Dr Lisa Argilla, who was part of the medical team, said Manukura's heart became weak after the long procedure.

"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," she said.

"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 she was returned to the Pukaha Mount Bruce national wildlife centre in Wairarapa.

The Dominion Post