Owl with the dodgy leg is fixed for flight
BABY barn owl Scooter faced certain death after being born with a rare birth defect that made one of his legs stick out, meaning he would never be able to stand or hunt for food.
But now Edinburgh University vets have performed pioneering surgery on the young bird, enabling him to fly for the first time.
Scooter, named after the motion he used to make when he shuffled around the floor, will return home this week to the centre he shares with the two owls who appeared in the first Harry Potter film – snowy owl Hedwig and great-horned owl Errol.
They live at the Owl and Pussycat Centre in Aberdeenshire, which uses a range of birds as part of assisted therapy programmes for children and adults with special needs.
Scooter’s breakthrough operation was carried out by Kevin Eatwell, a specialist in exotic animals at Edinburgh’s Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies.
He gave the bird a “slim chance” of making it as it was the first time that he had performed the surgery on such a young barn owl.
Eatwell said: “Unlike other birds, birds of prey need perfectly positioned legs for catching prey and landing so we could not amputate the deformed leg.
“Without his leg he would have died, but this was no easy operation. The chances of success were very slim given his age and size. It took two operations to get it right; he just kept battling to survive.”
The vet saved Scooter’s life after successfully implanting pins and blots into his right leg, which made it rigid.
Eatwell said: “Owls have hollow legs and he was able to keep the pins in place long enough for his leg to repair.
“The pins are now out and Scooter has taken his first flight.
“He was a bit jittery and shaky at the start, but is an absolute natural. He is a star.”
Ruth Hicking, Centre Manager of the Owl and the Pussycat Centre, said: “It has taken a lot to get him better, but he is worth it.”
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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