bear brain surgery

Free the Bears, a non-profit Australian-run group based in Laos performed brain surgery on Champa, the Asiatic black bear.


Champa was rescued about three years ago as a cub. The sanctuary rescues bears like Champa from wildlife traffickers. The Asiatic black bear is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN red list mainly due to the fact that many of the bears are farmed for their bile as it is a valuable ingredient in many Chinese and Korean traditional medicine.

When Champa was found she had a large protrusion on her head. As she grew her behavior did not seem to fit in with that of the other bears. She was growing at a slower rate and her vision was slowly fading.

Vets at the sanctuary thought she might have hydrocephalus also referred to as “water on the brain” and can be caused by a blockage or an overproduction of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain cavity. It puts pressure on the brain causing constant migraines and over time will cause brain damage.

Staff at the Laos sanctuary decided to go the extra mile for Champa and the first-ever bear brain surgery was preformed to alleviate her suffering. Pizzi, a South African vet who works at the Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland, was called to perform the surgery. Pizzi used a laparoscopic technique called “keyhole” to drill a hole behind Champa’s ear then insert a tube from the brain to the abdomen to drain the excess fluid.

Sanctuary staff noticed immediate change in Champa’s behavior noticing that she could lift her head up higher than before. She is now much more social and she is even gaining weight. Champa does have some brain damage, so she will not be able to be released.

Pizzi knows that the surgery he performed isn’t going to save the Asiatic black bear from extinction, “but the world of that one bear is changed forever.”

Now check out this picture of Romain Pizzi with a swan he rescued in his car! Isn’t he (and the swan) just adorable!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s