Minimally invasive surgical techniques holds great advantages for zoo animals


Zoo animal surgery is fraught with difficulties. Aside from the widely differing anatomy, post-operative wound interference is a concern, and there is the real risk of an animal causing a fatal abdominal wound dehicence. Post-operative care is also problematic, with it being difficult to restrict normal activity on recovery from surgery. Laparoscopic surgery provides a safe alternative to orthodox open abdominal surgery in zoo animals.

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland is a leader in Zoo Animal Keyhole Surgery in the United Kingdom, with many new pioneering techniques performed for the first time world wide at Edinburgh Zoo. The RZSS specialist vet department works in association with other specialists, and provides the ability to help with performing keyhole surgery procedures in other zoos and animal collections in the UK. Zoological Medicine Ltd provides equipment  and logistic support for the RZSS laparoscopic surgery program. 

Coming soon - EndoARK - this exciting project is sponsored by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. Much of the difficulties faced in zoo animal endosurgery and techniques such as artificial insemmination are due to lack of familiarity with normal anatomy as viewed during endosopic procedures. The EndoARK archive aims to collect as many pictures and videos of endoscopic views in as many zoo and wildlife species as possible, even if post-mortem. While not notable in themselves (and hence otherwise likely to remain unpublished), these will be an invaluable reference when planing a new procedure in an unfamiliar species, or deciding what is normal and abnormal when first performing endosurgery in a  novel species. It is hoped that this will help reduce some of the barriers to the use of minimally invasive surgery in zoological collections.

Diagnostic laparoscopy in a bush dog at the Royal Zoological Sociey of Scotland
Bush dogs are small South American canids that are gregarious and live in packs of 10-12 in the wild. They are relatively rare, and are classified as near-threatened by the IUCN. In this case, the dominant breeding male bush dog in a small zoo pack was suffering from chronic abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and weight loss. Exploratory diagnostic laparoscopy using an open approach and 3mm paediatric instruments was performed as part of a thorough diagnostic evaluation. Laparoscopic mesenteric lymphnode and liver biopsies were taken, as well as laparoscopic-assisted full thickness intestinal biopsies. Chronic exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) and Inflammatory bowel diseaseIBD, likely secondary to the EPI) were found, and he has responding well to medical management (Romain Pizzi, RZSS).  

For more zoo animal laparoscopic surgery videos visit the surgery videos page

For scientific articles on zoo animal laparoscopy visit the Abstracts & References page