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September 29, 2012
KAREN the koala looks like she doesn’t have a care in the world, except maybe where the next eucalyptus leaf might come from.
But she doesn’t know how lucky she is.
Back in July, she was almost completely immobile and became the first koala in the world to have a full knee reconstruction.
Veterinarian Tiffany Jacobs said the operation revealed that, contrary to what the veterinary world believed, koalas do have kneecaps.
But rather than being made out of bone, they are cartilage patellas, not visible on X-rays.
It all started when staff at Perth’s Caversham Wildlife Park noticed four-year-old Karen’s leg was askew. She had popped her knee out.
She was taken to the Bedford-Dianella Vet Centre, where she was anaesthetised and her leg put back in its normal position.
By early July, though, her knee had popped out again — a common risk with dislocations.
Dr Jacobs then contacted Aaron Moles, one of Australia’s leading specialist veterinary surgeons.
“There’s no anatomy you can look up in a book to tell you where to go or what to do,” Dr Jacobs said.
“Their biomechanics are completely different to any other animal because they climb all the time.
They don’t do a lot of walking, as such.”
Dr Moles then dissected the leg of another koala that had died earlier, and familiarised himself with the marsupial’s anatomy.
Dr Moles completely reconstructed Karen’s knee with steel pins, ties and heavy-duty nylon string.
“Someone may have done it, but I don’t know if they would have done it using the technique that we have used,” Dr Jacobs said.
“They’ve done a wonderful job with her leg,” Steve Gillam, the head koala keeper at the Caversham park, said. “Within two or three days she was moving it.”
Story By NICHOLAS PERPITCH From:The Australian September 29, 2012 12:00AM