Pregnancy determination in Christianne, 8 years old female harbour seal (Phoca vitulina) maintained at the Acquario di Genova, has been achieved with ultrasound examination in February 2001. On the 1st of July 2001, Christianne stopped eating as often occurs in females in proximity of labour, but she remained anorectic for longer than a week without delivering. Despite showing mild behavioural signs of discomfort, at clinical evaluation and blood analysis she resulted healthy, but ultrasound examination of the foetus showed a decrease in the frequency of heart beat from 120 to 90 beats per minute and less movement than expected, even when stimulated with ecographic sound. On the 12th of July it was decided to proceed with a caesarian section. Anaesthesia protocol included intramuscle injection of atropine (0,02 mg/kg) 10 minutes prior to induction with propofol (2,5 mg/kg IV) and maintenance with isoflurane.
The opening of the abdomen, through a mid-line cut of approximately 15 cm, showed a complete torsion of the uterus not allowing dilation of the cervix for parturition. The foetus has been extracted, the uterus washed with antibiotic solution and all the different layers closed with appropriate standard surgical suture material.
The pup initially required manual ventilation followed by oxygen tubing and sublingual application of doxapram; soon after resuscitation regular natural breathing occurred.
Recovery from anesthesia has been smooth and post surgical management of the female and pup have been dealt with standard marine mammal husbandry protocols.
The authors wish to thank Dr. Jim Mc Bain, Dr. Joseph Geraci, Dr. Frances Gulland and Dr. Martin Haulena for their precious advices and support, the Acquario di Genova Marine Mammal department and Dr. Ingrid Misfatto for their help and support.