Doctors in China managed to remove a toy volleyball from a dolphin, which had been swallowed by the mammal while playing.
A medical team operated on the stomach of five-year-old Jiang Bo in Nanjing in east China's Jiangsu Province, after a long-armed basketball player who volunteered to help, failed to reach it. According to officials, the procedure on the dolphin at the No. 2 Hospital Affiliated to Nanjing Medical University lasted three hours, with the animal sedated.
Jiang Bo, imported from Japan to Nanjing Underwater World, swallowed the ball on Wednesday. The obstruction placed the aquatic mammal's life at risk, but medical staff were reluctant to cut open the animal to reach it, concerned about how the wound would heal.
Doctors managed to drill a hole in the ball and tried to pull it out after attaching a length of cord. But just when this seemed likely to succeed, the cord broke. Undaunted, the veterinary team tried again, this time using medical steel wire, and finally managed to yank out the ball.
The procedure had been expected to take less than 30 minutes, but in the event lasted three hours. "We can say that Jiang Bo's life is no longer at risk," the Shanghai Daily quoted an official with the aquarium, surnamed Meng as saying.
"But of course he will require long-term recovery treatment. "We'll give him post-operation care and adjust his diet," the official said Jiang Bo was returned to the aquarium later. Before turning to doctors, the aquarium had made an appeal for people with long arms to reach down into the dolphin's stomach to retrieve the ball.
This strategy has been used successfully in similar incidents elsewhere. Meng Da, a professional basketball player with a Jiangsu Province club, rushed to the aquarium on Wednesday, but his efforts were in vain. Although 1.95-meters tall, Meng could not quite reach the ball.
2.26-meter tall Zhang Mengyong, the tallest man in the province, was on standby to make an attempt, should the doctors have failed. Staff saw him drag the ball deep down into the pool, but when he resurfaced, it was gone.