On The Road To Recovery; Puntung Eating, Responds Well To Treatment

Puntung east well daily for a Rhino which just had major surgery in her mouth to have three rotten teeth extracted. – Photo credit Sabah Wildlife Department

KOTA KINABALU: It will still require several months before Puntung, one of the last three Sumatran rhinos in Malaysia, is fully recovered.

But those caring for her, including the Sabah Wildlife Department, is hopeful all will end well after her rotten teeth were extracted 10 days ago, to deal with a large, deep abscess that had caused much anxiety.

“Puntung is recovering under full-time intensive care,” said Augustine Tuuga, SWD Director, “and she is adapting to use only her right cheek teeth to chew the leaves.

Dr ZZ Zainal, left

“She is doing well, vocalising a lot, and eating between 25 – 30 kilograms of leaves daily. She sleeps on an 8-inch mattress most of the time. The keepers give her a mud pack daily, because she misses her wallow. She has gained 4 kilograms after the surgery.”

Dr Zainal Z Zainuddin, the veterinarian in charge of Puntung’s care, said the swelling and open wound on her left cheek is healing slowly

One problem however is that Puntung rubs on the metal posts and wooden walls of her night stall, probably due to itchiness.

Puntung has an eight-inch mattress to sleep on and gets a mud pack daily.

“We have varied the type of antibiotic over the past weeks so as to try to kill off all kinds of potential sources of infection,” he said.

“Yesterday (Thursday) we started on Ceftiofur, which is supposed to be excellent for orthodontic surgery in large mammals and requires smaller volumes to be injected.”

According to Dr Zainal, Puntung is supplemented with oral hematinics – a nutrient for formation of blood cells.

The external facial wound and the tooth extraction site is flushed with antiseptic twice daily but this apparently is a difficult task.

“We can’t get the rinse deep enough as she won’t allow it,” Dr Zainal added. “We do warm compress on the swelling below her left eye.”