Amputee Puti

WARNING: Contains graphic images.

Meet Puti. This is Pangulasian Island’s…actually El Nido Resorts’ first-ever Monitor Lizard to undergo amputation (November 2018). It was spotted by Pangulasian Island Resort staff having a limp gait, only to discover that its right forelimb was basically in shambles….torn, exposed muscles and all.


After it was “admitted” to the Suhai Lounge for close inspection, we found that it was impossible to piece together the torn muscles (triceps? biceps? brachialis? We were stumped); plus the skin.

Amputation it was then. Armed with a hacksaw blade, a scalpel, a needle driver, a candle, an old spoon, and some expired sutures, Resort Doctor Jamie Tan and Environmental Officer B set to work.


It wasn’t pretty. Reminded us of war time surgery. After the procedure that seemed like forever, all that was left to do was find an enclosure to keep Puti for a few days to monitor its recovery, and clean the incisions every so often…at least that was the plan. Since there wasn’t any available, we temporarily secured it in the Suhai Treasure Chest. But it managed to escape while we were having lunch break. The force was strong in this one…

We spotted it outside Suhai, but as we approached it, it retreated deeper into the thickets. And as of that point we were left with no other choice but to enlist the help of the resort staff to inform us if Puti had survived the ordeal.

AND IT DID! YAAAAAAAASSSS!!!! Many many many thanks to everyone in Pangulasian Island Resort who helped, with a special holler to Doc Jamie Tan! Couldn’t have done it without her…literally. Richard Sevillo, Tay Fidel and Team Garden (Kuya Kiev, Kuya Togs), Housekeeping friendships…too many to mention, but you know who you are, and we would like to extend a virtual hug!

Puti’s severed forearm preserved in ethanol.

FAQ’s about Puti:

  1. Why did its forelimb end up that way? Our best guess is it got into a bad fight with another monitor lizard. No broken bones, and the lacerations appeared really ragged. 
  2. That must’ve been painful…Did you use anesthesia? No. Reptile physiology is a bit more complicated; though we had anesthesia, at that time we weren’t sure if it was appropriate for the species. 
  3. Why didn’t you call a veterinarian, or bring Puti to a vet?There was no one available at the time, at least one in El Nido. Hence we have Environmental Officers based in each island to provide emergency aid. We in fact used to have an EO that was a vet (Doc Kitsie Torres).
  4. Is EO B also a veterinarian? No she isn’t, but she is a zoologist. All the same, it was team effort…Doc Jamie provided logistical assistance and walked EO B through the medical procedures, while EO B made sure this translated to the reptilian body plan.
  5. How did you sterilize stuff? BETAVINE!…which was just Betadine…and a shot of divine intervention.
  6. Were you able to recapture it to change its dressing? Nope. Time heals all wounds…AND IT SURE DID!
  7. What happened to its severed arm? It is in Miniloc Island, where EO B was based.
  8. Why is its name Puti? It’s a self-proclaimed, endearing term for amputee. In Filipino, “puti” means white. Also to represent the white dressing and glove that covered its forearm post-op (Made it easier to spot when it was hiding).
  9. Why did you decide to amputate it? Why not just leave it alone and let nature take its course? We thought about that. Leaving it open would’ve attracted flies, other hungry monitor lizards (yes, because they fight and eat anything…even their own kind if need be), and possibly would’ve lead to an infection. Though we technically aren’t qualified, we felt it was the proper thing to do to increase its chance of survival. One noteworthy thing about us humans is that we feel compelled to help (but note that this isn’t unique to our species). It is a testament to our purpose in this planet – to use our knowledge and talents to be the stewards of Nature’s creatures. In doing so, we find inner peace, and unfathomable joy that no amount of money can afford.


Photos by: Richard Sevillo, Dr. Jamie Tan, EOs B. Ong, & Tefie Mahecha



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