When Anika, a pregnant 6-year-old Komodo dragon at The Denzer Zoo was lethargic and not gaining any weight, her keeper Tim Trout grew worried.
She was taken in for an emergency exam and the news wasn’t good: She had peritonitis. Blood and egg yolk were in her abdomen, and she had to be prepped for surgery.
It was a surgery where the fatality rate was pretty high.
“It’s actually been done two or three times and here, but each of those cases resulted in the animal not making it,” Gwen Jankowski, MS, DVM, a staff veterinarian who performed both the initial exam and the surgery, told the Denver Post. “One or two made it through the actual surgery but died with a few weeks or a month.”
However, because vets caught her symptoms early and have provided intensive after-care, Anika is thriving after her procedure that removed her reproductive organs.
“It’s very rare for it to go this well, which is why we’re so excited,” Jankowski said. “One of our curators was saying that more than 80 percent of females have died from this problem. She had yolk and inflammatory material and blood extending from all the way in back of her abdominal cavity to the front. You can imagine that’s not a very good condition to be in.”
Though she will never reproduce again, Anika is doing well. The staff at the zoo are happy, and say she will live at least another 10 years. Jankowski is also thrilled how the zoo staff came together effort to help Anika.
“It’s not only exceptional that we got her through this problem, because dragons are stoic and it’s difficult to catch something like this, but I was blown away by how the staff pulled together and got behind this,” she said. “People from all over the zoo were coming by and checking on her and asking how they could help out.”
In a video recently filmed by Denver’s 9NEWS (KUSA), Anika had a checkup. The Denver Zoo wrote on their Facebook page:
“We’re very proud of our world-class animal care team, including Gwen Jankowski, MS, DVM, Denver Zoo Staff Veterinarian and Technician Supervisor (pictured performing the check-up).”