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World’s First Bear Brain Surgery

Post by Erica Wills

*Photo: Champa, an Asiatic Black Bear, just two hours after her surgery. Photograph courtesy of Matt Hunt, chief executive of Free the Bears.

I’m taking a little break from my beloved polar bears this week, because this story is just too incredible to not share with you all. National Geographic recently reported that three-year-old Champa, a female Asiatic black bear living in a sanctuary in Laos, is the world’s first bear to undergo brain surgery!

Veterinarians at Free the Bears, the owners of the sanctuary, found that Champa was suffering “from a buildup of fluid in the brain called hydrocephalus, which affects both animals and humans.” Because of Laos’ Buddhist traditions that do not allow for euthanasia, the only course of action left was to perform surgery, which was successfully completed by Romain Pizzi on February 25. 

Though she will always have some brain damage, Champa’s relief is obvious as she socializes with the other bears and begins to gain weight again. As Pizzi was quoted saying, “Operating on one bear won’t save bears from extinction, and making life better for one bear won’t change the world. But the world of that one bear is changed forever.”