West Lothian-based three-legged cheetah makes full recovery from amputation surgery at Five Sisters Zoo
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As the fastest land animal on earth, the cheetah reaches speeds of more than 100kmph. So, when a crippling and complicated ankle break rendered four-year-old Ashanti lame, it was devastating for the beautiful big cat and her keepers.
When Ashanti's previous zoo found itself having to close, it struggled to find another zoo to take her on as a result of her complicated leg fracture and its failure to heal, despite surgery by the zoo's vet. Despite this and knowing she would need significant care and treatment, the family-owned Five Sisters Zoo welcomed Ashanti into their care in March 2022.
Despite a further two surgeries to try return her leg to normal function, the specialist vet team reluctantly had to make the difficult decision to amputate her right hind leg. Now, six months on, the extraordinary cheetah has fully recovered and is now bounding around her habitat at the West Calder Zoo.
Brian Curran, owner of Five Sisters Zoo, said: “It was an incredibly difficult decision; it gave us all sleepless nights. When she first arrived at Five Sisters Zoo, Ashanti would cope with running around with the other cheetahs and didn’t appear to let the old injury slow her down too much. However, after lots of playing and running in their new large enclosure, Ashanti would periodically become quite lame and tired and would need a course of pain relief medication.
"Despite two further specialist surgical operations at the zoo to try to improve matters, we knew this wasn’t going to be sustainable or fair long-term, so our specialist veterinary team made the difficult decision to amputate her leg. After a successful operation and within just a few weeks of the surgery, Ashanti was clearly happier and much more contented which made us feel like we made the correct decision.”
Romain Pizzi FRCVS, head of veterinary services for Five Sisters and president of the British Veterinary Association’s Scottish branch, said: “Ashanti’s injury was a complicated one, with a difficult break in her right hind ankle that had not healed when she arrived at the zoo. Despite our performing a further two operations at Five Sisters Zoo to try and return her leg back to a more normal function, she was not coping well, and was prone to injuring the leg easily. After much deliberation, we decided to amputate her leg and are so pleased with her recovery.
“Ashanti actually translates to ‘gratitude’, and while she might run away when she sees me now as I’m the one who operated on her, I hope she is, in fact, grateful and happy to be back on her (three healthy) feet! We can’t wait to see Ashanti continue to thrive and put a smile on everyone’s face for many more years to come at Five Sisters Zoo.”
Ashanti’s carers hope to welcome guests and visitors to Five Sisters Zoo to view her full recovery for themselves. The zoo was officially established in 2005 with a modest selection of rabbits, guinea pigs, goats and pigs. It now has more than 180 species of mammals, birds and reptiles from all over the world.