Disney Veterinary Team Saves Taveta Golden Weaver

Veterinarian Natalie Mylniczenko worked quickly with her team to treat the bird’s damaged trachea.

About two weeks ago, a Taveta golden weaver chick was attacked by a Hamerkop in the middle of the night as he attempted to fly. Both birds reside inside Disney’s Animal Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. The 15-gram chick was found in critical condition in its aviary along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail at the resort, Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks, wrote in a Disney Parks Blog Wildlife Wednesday post.

A keeper brought the injured bird to the veterinary hospital located at the resort. The veterinary team that examined him discovered the Taveta golden weaver had suffered damage to his trachea and was having trouble breathing.

Natalie Mylniczenko, MS, DVM, DACZM, said of the bird, “His trachea had basically started closing in on itself from all the inflammation so he couldn’t breathe. The advantage of birds is that they also have air sacs in their body which help with flight, but are also an integral part of their respiratory system.”

With that knowledge, Dr. Mylniczenko and her veterinary team (which included keepers) acted quickly, realizing the best way to save the bird’s life was to insert a tube into its air sac — a procedure usually reserved for much larger birds.

“We had to basically create a tube, so we took an IV catheter for a larger animal, snipped it, smoothed it, popped it in and sewed it in,” Mylniczenko said in the blog post. “Remarkably, it worked really, really well, and then we gave him medicine and supportive care. By the next day, his trachea had completely gone back to normal [so that] we were able to take the tube out. It was a really quick turnaround. A week or two later, the keepers said, ‘We can’t even tell which bird he is anymore!’ I had a lot of amazing technicians around me to keep the bird alive while we were trying to pull together what to do. It was just remarkable.”

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