A new wildlife series on BBC gives us an inside look into the rather remarkable procedure of Big Animal Surgery.

And in last night’s episode (Thursday, June 6th), we saw the vets take on their biggest challenge yet – the elephant.

Here is the moment that the vets remarkably saved Grande the elephant, leaving viewers stunned and in awe…

Big Animal Surgery: Elephant (No. 3)

Meet Grande the elephant…

Grande is, as his name suggests, rather large.

He is a 23-year-old Asian elephant living in the Tbilisi Zoo in the capital of Georgia.

Grande was receiving surgery as part of his broken tusk still remained lodged in his body. The remaining tusk was causing a serious infection which was threatening his life and so South African vets Dr Adrian Tordiffe and Dr Gerhard Steenkamp had been flown in to deal with this tricky procedure.

The first hurdle

At five tonnes, the first challenge of the operation was to safely tranquilise him and lower him to the ground without causing any damage.

The second challenge was to make sure Grande was lying on the correct side for the surgery to take place. The tusk that needed to be removed was on the right side of his head and so the team had to band together and tip Grande when he started to lie on his right side.

Because of Grande’s weight, the operation had to be done in four hours, otherwise, he would start to damage other limbs by lying on them.

Big Animal Surgery – Elephant

Tusk removal

Although it was hard to watch Dr Gerhard cut through Grande’s tusk with a saw and then a hammer, it was a rather fascinating procedure – not every day you get to watch a doctor remove a tusk!

Big Animal Surgery – Dr Gerhard removing the tusk
Dr Gerhard removing the tusk

The tusk comes out!

After a sizable piece of the tusk came loose, more remained stuck inside which posed a serious problem for Dr Adrian and Gerhard.

Gerhard had to manually try to prize the loose tusk out. And he finally managed it!

A piece so small it wouldn’t cause any harm remained.

Part of the tusk comes out

Grande is saved!

In 3 hours and 45 minutes the team decided it was time to revive Grande as the operation had cleared the issue.

In the episode, presenter Liz Bonin said she was doubting whether he would make it after his medical history and age, but he proved himself to be “a survivor”.


Grande stands after the operation


The nail biting moment surgeons performed brain surgery on Operation Live – watch it happen in real-time!

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