November 5, 2018 / 5:48 PM / a year ago

After four hours of tusk surgery, elephant is on his feet in Tbilisi

Tbilisi, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Grand the Asian elephant was recovering in Tbilisi after surgery on one of his tusks, officials at a zoo in the Georgian capital said on Sunday.

The 23-year-old animal was brought to the zoo from Armenia in 2014 with both tusks broken and infected. British veterinarians removed one tusk, but complications set in, and the animal had to wait four years for the second operation.

The latest surgery was performed by a team of South African veterinarians on Wednesday. Gerhard Steenkamp and Adrian S.W. Tordiffe worked more than four hours to remove the infected tusk.

“The operation is very important ... if we do not operate, then there is a big risk that he gets blood poisoning and he will die,” Marjo Hoedemaker, the head of the Marjo Hoedemaker Elephant Foundation and the curator of Tbilisi Zoo, told reporters.

The veterinarians said the surgery went well, but the elephant would need a long time to recover.

“It takes anything from 12 to 18 months for that hole to actually close fully,” Steenkamp said.

The elephant was up on his feet shortly after the surgery was over, which brought applause among those waiting outside his pen.

Tordiffe, an anaesthesiologist who was the second member of the veterinary team, said he was pleased with the outcome.

“I was very happy with the anaesthetic that we used. And then we were able to reverse it after the procedure was finished ... So after four hours he is back on his feet and we are really happy with that, and it looks like the tusk extraction has gone very, very well,” Tordiffe said. (Reporting by Larry King)

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