That is one hell of an adorable animal. And a special one too — Champa, an Asiatic black bear, is the first bear ever to undergo brain surgery.
Champa has lived most of her three years at a sanctuary called Free the Bears (yes, I will be ordering a T-shirt) which protects this endangered species of bears from people who use them to extract their bile — often doing so with dirty catheters and needles that leave the bears ill, sometimes fatally so. Among the bears at the sanctuary, Champa always seemed a little different. She was a bit of a loner, and she had a bit of a protruding forehead. Bear experts thought that she probably had hydrocephalus, or water on the brain. And since the sanctuary is a Buddhist organization, she couldn’t be euthanized. So they called in a vet who had done operations before at the sanctuary — though never brain surgery — to give it a try.
The surgery involved drilling a hole near the bear’s ear and then threading a tube inside. First, the doctor used an ultrasound probe to make sure Champa was suffering from hydrocephalus, which indeed she was — which must have been a relief, since the lack of an MRI machine anywhere in Laos meant he couldn’t verify this until after he started drilling into her head. Then he installed a shunt to drain her excess cerebrospinal fluid into her abdomen, where the body can easily absorb it. And now Champa is doing much much better. She is more social. Her vision is improved. Everyone is beary optimistic, and that is beary good!
First Brain Surgery Performed on Bear, National Geographic.