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CAMEL IS BRACED FOR RECOVERY

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The Hogle Zoo's 2-year-old female Bactrian camel, "139-white," is getting braces.

These braces, however, will not straighten her teeth. The zoo's staff is hoping the braces - made of graphite material and durable stainless steel hinges - will help cure severe ligament and tendon stretching, a hyperextension and hinge collateral deformities in the camel's front legs. A local company, Fit-Well Prosthetic and Orthotic Center, cast the molds for the braces Thursday afternoon and will set the braces in a couple of weeks.Dr. Ross Anderson, Hogle Zoo veterinarian, said the camel's injury was actually the result of an earlier injury to her hind legs. He said the zoo staff believes she was injured in a breeding incident. The camel's bones are still developing, which may explain the injury, he said.

After the injury to her hind legs, the camel shifted nearly 60 percent (600 lbs.) of her weight onto her front legs, causing the painful condition she is experiencing now. She was moved to the hospital on May 3 because she was unable to care for herself and live with the dozen other camels. Anderson said it has become necessary to try and correct the problem.

"If we didn't, I'm afraid her days would be numbered."

Anderson said the hospital staff considered surgery, but the success rate on horses with similar injuries is low. No like injuries have occurred with camels elsewhere, Anderson said, so experts decided to go with the braces, which have been successful on horses.

Scott E. Allen, certified prosthetist, said special precautions are being taken. The company will have to adapt the brace to the camel's weight and pad the inside with a 1/4-inch of foam to deter painful rubbing. He said the braces will be screwed shut because the camel otherwise would chew off the straps.

"She might be in them for six to seven months or forever if her tendons don't heal," Allen said.

Officials don't know when the camel will be placed back on display, explaining the other camels might chew on the braces.

Anderson said Hogle Zoo is one of the country's most successful in raising Bactrian camels. Five camels have been born this year.

Fit-Well donated its time in casting and setting the braces, which will cost about $850, Anderson said.