Orangutan that injured its hand can swing again… after operation to fix broken fingers


An orangutan which lost its ability to swing after injuring his hand is king of the swingers again – after undergoing surgery to repair his broken fingers.

Jiwa the playful primate fractured two digits in his right hand while monkeying around with his brother Jaya.

The painful injury left glum Jiwa unable to swing around his enclosure at Durrell Wildlife Park in Jersey.

Jiwa, left, plays with his friend Jaya
Jiwa, left, plays with his friend Jaya

Keepers spotted his swollen hand and tried to cure the Sumatran orangutan with painkillers and anti-inflammatories.

But when that failed to get Jiwa back in the swing of things they anaesthetised the ten-year-old and took him off for tests.

X-rays revealed a clean break in the two middle fingers of his right hand.

Durrell staff called in expert animal surgeon Peter Haworth from Jersey’s New Era Veterinary Hospital, who inserted pins into the sedated ape’s shattered fingers.


Jiwa swings again after surgery
Jiwa swings again after surgery



The X-Ray of Jiwa's broken fingers
The X-Ray of Jiwa’s broken fingers


Jiwa on the operating table
Jiwa on the operating table

Jiwa had a second operation last week to remove the pins after further scans showed his bones were healing nicely.

Keepers at the famous Channel Islands wildlife attraction say he’s well on the road to recovery.

A spokesman said: “After removing the pins used to reduce and stabilize the fracture we were delighted to see a good alignment of the bone fragments and adequate healing.”

Sumatran orangutans are classified as critically endangered and there are thought to be only 6,600 left in the wild.

Conservationists say their natural forest habitat is being lost to logging and the palm oil industry at a rate of 10 to 15 percent a year.

Jiwa’s keepers initially feared his injured fingers might have to be amputated – leaving him unable to swing again.

Top vet Peter Haworth had never operated on an orangutan’s hand before but he knew it would be very similar to a human hand.

He sought advice on how a person’s fingers would be pinned and surgically repaired then used the same operation on Jiwa’s digits.

Mr Haworth, of Jersey’s New Era Veterinary Hospital, said: “I was called in because Jiwa had broken both the growth plates in his fourth and fifth metatarsals.

“Essentially he had broken his little finger and his ring finger. Those two fingers constitute about 65 percent of your ability to grip.

“Obviously a monkey or an ape who relies upon that grip to swing about is not going to do very well without those fingers, so we knew we had to save them.

“The structure of an orangutan’s hand is very similar to that of a human but with much thicker skin.

“You can’t put a bandage on an orangutan after you’ve finished because he’ll just tear it off, so we had to make sure the sutures were buried deep enough so he couldn’t get at them.

“The operation was a great team effort and he’s doing very well. The fingers have healed and he’s able to use his hand again.”


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