News: Veterinarian service members save baby monkey at BTH-Panama 2013
Story by Capt. Sarah Harris
MEDETE, Panama – Veterinary service members participating in Beyond the Horizon-Panama 2013 worked diligently to save a baby howler monkey that was injured after falling from a tree here June 6.
The monkey’s tail was nearly severed after she fell from a tree June 4. The veterinary staff tried reconnecting the tail to save it, but after two days, it became severely infected due to irreparable vascular damage. U.S. Army Capt. John Turco, a veterinarian with the 719th Medical Detachment Veterinary Services based out of Fort Sheridan, Ill., decided that amputating the tail was the only option to save her life.
“We had hoped our initial repair was going to work, but it became infected,” said Turco. “If we had left it, she almost certainly would have died from [infection].”
The amputation surgery was successful, and the veterinary staff said she would most likely survive. The only remaining concern was her ability to survive in the wild.
“The probability of it living [without its tail] in the wild is very slim,” said Maj. William Baker of the 4005th U.S. Army Hospital based out of Ellington Field in Houston, Texas. Baker is serving as the medical officer in charge of the medical readiness training exercises (MEDRETEs) for Beyond the Horizon-Panama 2013 that spanned three regions and multiple sites across the country of Panama. The regions included Santiago, Darien and Panama East.
The most common animals cared for by the service members of the 719th during the MEDRETEs have been dogs, cats, cattle and horses. The chance to care for an animal that is native to the country of Panama was a rare and exciting opportunity for the staff. It also allowed them to work cooperatively with the Panamanian medical staff to learn about an animal unfamiliar to their practice back in the States.
“It’s not every day that I get to work on a monkey, so I feel privileged to be able to help this wild animal,” said Turco. “[The Panamanians] have been very helpful and interested in the care of this little girl.”
The U.S. veterinary service members showed several of the Panamanian security personnel who work in the medical field how to change the bandages and care for the monkey following the surgery. One of the Panamanian medical personnel made arrangements to have the monkey placed in an environmental sanctuary located near Panama City.
“Because the monkey will have to remain in captivity, this is the best option to help her live a long, happy life,” said Turco.
“The vets made the decision to amputate, because it was in the best interest of the animal, and that’s the goal of the BTH veterinary staff: to do what’s best for the animals,” said Baker.
Beyond the Horizon-Panama 2013 is a joint humanitarian and civic assistance exercise deploying engineer and medical service members to the host nation for training and assistance in coordination with the Panamanian government. The exercise concludes in late June.