If a human suffers irreparable liver damage, they go on a list to get a liver from a donor. Same with a kidney, heart or other body organs.
Getting a transplant done is tricky business, both the acquisition of the donor body part and the surgery itself. But, it’s done almost every day around the country.
What do you do when an animal gets a body part injured beyond repair? There’s no data bank showing what parts are available. And, even if there were, where would one go to get the new part put into place?
One lucky eagle in Australia found out the answers to both questions. And as a result, is again soaring the skies instead of living out its days in a cage.
This young eagle was spotted recently, obviously in a great deal of trouble. She had become separated from her family and gotten tangled up in twine on a fence. Rescuers disentangled her and rushed the bird to a veterinary clinic for care.
The people at the Grafton Vet Clinic examined the eagle and found that luckily no bones had been broken, nor were there any internal injuries. But, that was the good news.
The bad news that four of her primary feathers were very badly damaged. Without their primary feathers, a bird cannot fly. And a bird that cannot fly, especially a big bird like the white-bellied sea eagle, cannot find enough food to stay alive.
So, the clinic staff was at an impasse to know what to do. The bird was young and healthy. But, without her wings, she could not have a normal life.
Finally, someone mentioned a specialist who might know how to rebuild her wing.
“Feather repair using the imping technique was the best option to get this young bird back out with her family,” Australian Raptor Care and Conservation Inc (ARCC) wrote on Facebook last week. “After a suitable donor wing from the same species and aged bird was sourced, the imping was carried out by raptor rehabber Melanie.”
“Imping,” which is short for implantation, takes feathers from a donor bird and implants them into injured wings to give damaged birds new life. Eventually, the feathers will molt normally as if they are the bird’s own.
“The repair is done by joining a new feather to the broken one; however it must be the exact corresponding feather from a bird of the same species and maturity,” ARCC told The Dodo in a statement. “Sadly, not all rescued raptors survive their injuries, but their wings and tails can be kept in a feather bank and used as feather donors to help other birds of prey.”
“Imping truly is a precision art and no mistakes can be made,” ARCC wrote. “The length and angle of the repaired feathers must be perfect as they will impact directly on aerodynamics, maneuverability and hunting success of the bird.”
Unlike an internal organ that must simply be placed in a hole vacated by the original organ, an implanted feather must be shaped exactly like the one it is replacing. Any deviation could prove fatal to the bird if a misplaced or misshapen feather malfunctioned while it was soaring high in the sky.
Using glue and a piece of bamboo, rescuers secured the new feathers in place in the eagle’s wing.
“Often the donor feather has a different shaft diameter to the feather being repaired, so adjustments need to be made,” ARCC said. “The bond must be secure to last until the feather is naturally molted and a new feather grows in its place.”
The transplant, or imping, was a success. Because the bird had no other injuries, once the rehabbers were sure the glue had completely dried and the new feathers were secure, it was time to take the bird on a test run. Then, if all went well, they could let their patient return to its family.
“After a few more days in care, to ensure there were no problems with the repaired wing, she was released back where she found,” ARCC wrote. “After 10 minutes one of the parent birds appeared to check on the young one. The best outcome for this majestic sea eagle!”
To help save more birds in need, you can make a donation to ARCC.
Source: The Dodo