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Back in the day, Feb. 24, 1975: Tiny, the 5,000-pound rhino at Omaha zoo, dies after Iowa surgery

Back in the day, Feb. 24, 1975: Tiny, the 5,000-pound rhino at Omaha zoo, dies after Iowa surgery

Lee Simmons-Tiny the rhino

Dr. Lee Simmons, director of the Henry Doorly Zoo, guides Tiny, a tranquilized Indian rhinoceros, into a heated truck in February 1975. Tiny was on his way to Iowa State University veterinary hospital for surgery to remove an intestinal obstruction.

Tiny, the celebrated 5,000-pound rhinoceros at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo, died Feb. 24, 1975 — three days after undergoing major surgery at Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. R.L. Lundvall, professor and head of Equine Medicine and Surgery at ISU, had given Tiny a 50-50 chance of living after the operation — the first time major surgery had been performed on an Indian rhinoceros. Lundvall, along with three other veterinarians, including the Henry Doorly Zoo's director at the time, Dr. Lee Simmons, performed the three-hour surgery to clear the blockage

An autopsy later revealed that the intestinal obstruction which had plagued the animal for weeks was larger than they had believed.

“There is no way we could have gotten to this surgically,” Simmons said after receiving the autopsy results. “It was totally inoperable.”

Simmons said the animal had lost about 700 pounds during the three weeks before the surgery because of the obstruction. Zoo personnel had to feed Tiny intravenously after he quit eating, which led to constipation.

After the operation, Simmons said initially that Tiny's prognosis was better and that all of his vital signs were good.

The 14-year-old rhino, who was already blind and dehorned, had previously been valued at $25,000 Simmons said.

Photos: The Henry Doorly Zoo through the years

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