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An Asian black bear undergoes world’s first compound fracture operation

An Asian black bear undergoes world’s first compound fracture operation

Posted May. 21, 2018 08:52,   

Updated May. 21, 2018 08:52


At Thursday noon at the Korea National Park Service located in the town of Gurye, South Jeolla Province, staff at the Wildlife Medical Center for Species Restoration began to rush. Kang Sung-dae, a professor of veterinary medicine at Chonnam National University who leads the operation at the center, looked serious. On a transport vehicle was a three-year-old male Asiatic black bear, “KM-53.” It was the same bear that had escaped from his habitat twice over the past year and travelled to Gimcheon, 100 kilometers away from Mt. Jiri, a preservation area for the species.

KM-53, known as the “Columbus” bear as he had tried to explore new world, looked extremely emaciated. The bear’s front left paw broken in an accident earlier this month was badly swollen. Jeong Dong-hyuk, who heads the medical center, was surprised by the bear’s survival, calling it a “miracle.”

It is the first of its kind in the world to perform a compound fracture operation for the adult wild Asiatic black bear. KM-53 was on the run for his third escape, and had his front paws shattered when hit by a car driving at a speed of 100 kilometers per hour on the Daejeon-Tongyeong Highway on May 5. The surgery took a half day. It was a major surgical operation to collect broken bones and hold the bone, muscle and tissue in place. “We will be observing the bear’s progress for a month or so before we decide whether to send him back to the wild,” said Jeong after the operation.

If sent back to the wild, he is likely to head toward Mt. Sudo in Gimcheon, experts said, citing that he was sent back to Mt. Jiri twice but escaped again and the route was similar on both occasions. “Bears start to establish their territory when they become two years old. KM-53 may have been lost in a territorial fight and forced to move to Mt. Sudo. I believe he found an environment, such as a cave, he likes to stay in,” said Ewha Womans University professor Jang yi-kwon, who studies the ecology of bears with the species restoration technology institute.

Mee-Jee Lee image@donga.com