Edinburgh vet operates on bear’s tongue which had ‘monstrously’ enlarged

An Edinburgh vet helped operate on the animal.
An Edinburgh vet helped operate on the animal.
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An Edinburgh vet helped to remove a bear’s tongue after it became so swollen it dragged along the floor.

Nyan htoo and his brother had been destined for illegal sale in China when they were cubs, before monks in Myanmar stepped in to save them.

The bear's tongue had become dangerously enlarged,

The bear's tongue had become dangerously enlarged,

But after their rescue, it soon became clear the animal was suffering from an unknown disease which caused his tongue to become “monstrously” enlarged.

Vets first operated on Nyan htoo in 2016 in an attempt to remove the excess tissue, but the swelling recurred and worsened over time.

By June 2017, the disease was badly affecting Nyan htoo’s quality of life, with his tongue often getting injured and dragged around the floor.

Animal welfare expert and veterinary surgeon Heather Bacon, of the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, worked with Caroline Nelson, a veterinary nurse at the Animals Asia Bear Rescue Centre in Vietnam.

They were joined by Romain Pizzi, from Wildlife Surgery International, and travelled to Myanmar to work with local vets to carry out a tongue amputation.

Three kilogrammes of tissue were removed in a procedure that lasted four hours in soaring temperatures.

After examination, the veterinary team believe the swelling may have been caused by a mosquito-transmitted infection called elephantiasis.

The condition is common in people in Myanmar but has never been reported in bears.

Ms Bacon said: “This was an opportunity for us to use our veterinary and animal welfare expertise to make a significant difference for a bear and the people who care for him.

“Thanks to the enthusiasm and compassion of all involved in this uniquely collaborative project, we have been able to make a tangible improvement in the quality of Nyan htoo’s life, and hope to continue our work in Myanmar to promote improvements in animal welfare and veterinary training.”