By Jason A. Smith
Officials at a local non-profit agency say their newest arrival has recovered from emergency surgery, and is preparing to meet area residents for the first time.
Noah's Ark Animal Rehabilitation Center and Children's Care home in Locust Grove reports that Evidence, the zebra, is doing well.
Staff members at the center first learned about Evidence on April 8, after he was found injured on Interstate 75 in Butts County. Officials believed the animal had apparently been hit from behind by an automobile.
After Evidence had recovered well enough to be transported, he was brought to his new home at Noah's Ark.
However, on Monday, June 23, the zebra was rushed back to Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine by Noah's Ark officials who noticed when Evidence urinated, the flow was not coming out properly, and they could tell the urethra had begun to close up. During an emergency procedure, doctors created a permanent path for the animal to eliminate fluid waste.
According to Diane Smith, assistant to Noah's Ark director Jama Hedgecoth, the staff at Auburn put in a catheter for Evidence's severed urethra.
However, earlier this week the animal began experiencing problems stemming from his surgery, which could threaten his life, Smith says.
"Before the catheter could be taken out, it had already worked its way [mostly] out of his body," she explains.
Evidence was rushed back to Auburn Monday, where a medical team, led by Dr. Justin Harper, performed a permanent urethrostomy.
Following the surgery, the zebra suffered a bout with colic and an adverse reaction to anesthesia, which required his stomach to be pumped. Evidence recovered the next day, and was brought back to Locust Grove Tuesday.
The cost of the procedure and rehabilitation costs were approximately $5,000. Still, Smith says there was never a question as to whether Evidence would get the care he needed.
"We were going to do the surgery regardless," says Smith. "That decision had already been made, but we did it believing that donors would step forward to make it possible."
Veterinarians at Auburn, she says, put the catheter in as a "temporary measure," to alleviate some of the zebra's health problems.
"[We were] hoping it would make a permanent opening for him to eliminate liquid waste ...," says Smith. "When he was injured, they had to remove all his male organs. When it healed, he would eliminate [waste] much like a female."
Jama Hedgecoth says since she and her husband, Charles Hedgecoth, Sr., returned to Noah's Ark with Evidence, all parties involved have been glad to be back home.
"We're exhausted - all except Evidence," she says. "He's back in his barn with his toys, and acting full of himself again."
Currently, Ark staff members are getting ready to introduce the community to the zebra during his public debut July 12, at which time he will be placed in the shelter's habitat.
The event will celebrate the addition of an animal whose recent troubles have touched the hearts of center employees and local residents.
In addition, attendees will have an opportunity to get their hands on an illustrated book titled, "I'm Evidence," which chronicles the zebra's struggles since being found in April.
The book, says Smith, is being offered as a "thank-you" to local residents, who have supported the shelter and aided in the animal's recovery.