This spring, Enam the Komodo dragon is looking forward to something far better than warmer weather–being mobile once again.
A young spirit at heart, 7-year-old Enam has arthritis in his left wrist that caused him to drag his foot, slowing him down and causing pain. To ease his discomfort and increase his mobility, staff at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium worked with the Columbus-based Hanger Clinic location to outfit him with a custom removable foot brace. The United States’ leading provider of prosthetics and orthotics, Hanger Clinic has been helping make people as well as animals like Enam mobile for 150 years.
“As you can imagine, placing a brace on the front leg of a Komodo dragon presents some challenges, but the folks at Hanger are resourceful and Enam’s caretakers are very patient,” said Dr. Randy Junge, vice president of animal health at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. “We were able to get the apparatus properly placed. He walks very well with the brace and doesn’t seem to notice it. And his girlfriend, Audrey, doesn’t seem to object either.”
“My colleague Phil Terry and I enjoyed this opportunity to give back to the community and, in conjunction with the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, work with Enam,” said Nicholas J. Igel, Hanger Clinic Certified Orthotist. “This terrific experience gave us the opportunity to look at the tasks we do on a daily basis in a different light.”
According to Igel, Hanger Clinic used many of the same methods for providing care to Enam as they typically use on their human patients. For example, the team cast Enam to create an impression and then used that impression to fabricate a custom-designed brace to help Enam walk more effectively.
“While there were many similarities, there were, of course, some differences in working with an animal,” said Igel. “It was refreshing to leave our comfort zone to problem solve and provide care to this unique patient.”
In addition to Enam, Hanger Clinic has fit a variety of species, including llamas, donkeys, dolphins and sandhill cranes.
Inhabiting only a few Indonesian islands, Komodos, the world’s largest lizards, have a fearsome reputation. Their diet includes rotting meat, which produces bacteria that stays in their mouth and makes their bite deadly. Despite this characteristic, which may seem to be less-than-endearing, Komodos play an important role in the ecosystem as a top predator. Due to poaching, human encroachment, and natural disasters, Komodo dragons are endangered in their native range. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is one of 35 zoos in North America that cares for Komodo dragons like the 7-foot-long, 90-pound Enam, and is continually working to support efforts to conserve them in the wild, as well as increase their quality of life in human care.