Meet Champa, The First Bear To Have Brain Surgery Performed On

She’s a three-year-old Asiatic black bear that has become a medical pioneer.

1. She was rescued as a cub and was ill from the get go.

“She had a protruding forehead and had trouble socializing with the other bears at the sanctuary. Over time, her growth slowed, her behavior became more erratic, and her vision faded.”

She was rescued from wildlife traffickers and now lives in a bear sanctuary in the northern mountains of Laos. This sanctuary is run by Free the Bears, an Australian non-profit group.

2. She’s an Asiatic black or moon bear, which is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

And they are really cute.

3. Really, really cute (and proper)

4. While in most of the Western hemisphere an animal with this condition would likely be euthanized, due to the strict and strong Budist tradition in Laos this was simply not an option.


Cue Dr. Pizzi, a South-African veterinarian surgeon working at the Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland. Dr. Pizzi uses a technique called “keyhole” or laparoscopic surgery for his procedures, in which surgery is performed making and small incision and using a camera.

Dr. Pizzi was going to do a first-time-ever procedure in difficult condition, not being able to confirm Champa’s hydrocephalus diagnostic until the actual surgery began,

After confirming the diagnostic was confirmed and Champa was sedated Dr. Pizzi drilled a small hole on the bear’s skull. Through it he was able to pass a thin tube and send it down to Champa’s stomach where the excess liquid can be absorbed.

5. After finishing the surgery and the first night recovery, Champa is a new Bear.


Free the Bear’s Chief Executive, stated that Champa was acting completely different.
Thanks to the weight that was removed from her head she can now look up and look directly at the sanctuary staff. “There was a lot more recognition,” said Hunt. “We can’t know if her vision is fully recovered, but everyone certainly believes her vision has improved.”

6. And now she’s a happier bear. Albeit, partially bald.

Dr. Pizzi stated “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.”

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