Dr. Marcie Logsdon prepares Takihin, an injured California condor, for a CT scan (Photo by Gail Collins).
Dr. Marcie Logsdon, an exotic veterinarian at Washington State University, carefully grabbed the 25-year-old, 20-pound California condor beak, cradled the bottom of his abdomen for support, and inspected his recently operated left leg.
The condor’s left wing – 4½ feet long when extended – is marked with a black circle, the number 39 of which is printed in white. Officially she is the California condor No. 139. She is only one of around 500 living species.
Also known as Takihin, the female condor lives full-time at the Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, where she has helped her species recover by successfully producing 21 chicks in a captive breeding program.
Just a day earlier, Dr. Logsdon together with Dr. Peter Gilbert, a small animal orthopedic surgeon at WSU, performed an intricate procedure to repair a broken leg and damaged knee that Takihin sustained during an argument with her partner. The procedure will hopefully save the endangered bird’s life and allow it to stay in the breeding program.
“The number of California condors left is surprisingly small,” said Logsdon. “The breeding efforts in captivity have managed to keep this bird from extinction. This is definitely a situation where every individual is important. “
Dr. Marcie Logsdon examines Takihin, a California condor who was treated for a broken leg at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
Takihin’s injury – a proximal tibial tarsus fracture that occurred on February 25 – was the equivalent of someone breaking their shin or tibia. After being transported to the WSU three days after the injury, a CT scan was performed to determine the extent of the injury. Unfortunately, the scan found that the condor’s knee was also damaged.
In deciding how to proceed, Logsdon consulted Gilbert. Dr. Reed Linenberger, a Boise, Idaho veterinarian who works closely with The Peregrine Fund; and Dr. Julia Ponder, who specializes in raptor medicine and surgery from the University of Minnesota.
“There was a lot of collaboration on this case because we wanted to make sure we were offering the best possible options for this bird,” said Logsdon. “We had a lot of discussions prior to this procedure about whether it was feasible or not, whether we had a reasonable chance of giving her a good quality of life afterwards, and also about what kind of procedure it would give her the best chance at one good result. “
Logsdon and Gilbert eventually pioneered a procedure called a transarticular external skeletal fixator (ESF) that used pins to support the condor’s leg.
Post-operative x-ray (x-ray) of Takihin with the pins and fixator in place.
“We put pins in the bones on either side of the fracture … and put all those pins together in a triangle to support the leg,” Logsdon said. “Essentially, it’s about getting around the knee and breaking yourself. So when she walks on that leg the forces will go right from the top of the leg to the bottom of the leg so we will be able to rest the knee and the fracture site and hopefully the body can heal. “
One day after the surgery, Takihin was returned to the Peregrine Fund, where she could recover in her own enclosure. While the operation went well, Takihin still has a long way to go.
“Her two-week post-op x-rays looked good and showed that her break is on the right path to healing,” said Leah Medley, propagation manager at The Peregrine Fund. “She’s got her lively personality back too, which shows us that she’s feeling much better. She really has been an amazing bird to us over the years. She always lays eggs and double clutches reliably and is a wonderful mother to her chicks. “
Logsdon is also optimistic about the condor’s future.
“We just have to watch her very closely and see how she heals. Condors and other vultures have a reputation for healing some pretty impressive wounds and injuries, ”said Logsdon. “Condors are incredibly unique and rare birds, and I am very honored to be part of the process that helps keep these birds in the wild.”