An 18-month-old bear has been given a new lease of life after vets operated to remove its tongue, which was so swollen it had been dragging along the floor.
The Asiatic Black Bear or moon bear — called Nyan htoo, which means "bright" — was rescued as a cub along with its brother Kan htoo (“lucky”) by a monastery in Myanmar.
The pair had been destined for illegal sale in China before monks stepped in to save them.
A team involving University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies' experts helped local vets amputate the 3kg ( nearly 7lb) tongue.
The university said that soon after the cubs' rescue, it became clear that Nyan htoo was suffering from an unknown disease that caused his tongue to become" monstrously enlarged".
Vets first operated on Nyan htoo in 2016 in an attempt to remove the excess tissue.
Despite making a good initial recovery, however, the swelling recurred and worsened over time.
By June 2017, it became clear the disease was now affecting Nyan htoo’s quality of life.
While he was still able to play and wrestle with his brother, his tongue dragged around on the floor.
It was continually being injured against his teeth and causing him to rest his head on his cage bars to support the additional weight.
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 on the case.
They were joined by Romain Pizzi from Wildlife Surgery International in preparing a plan to alleviate the animal’s suffering, with support from charities the Winton Foundation for the Welfare of Bears and Free the Bears.
The expert team traveled to Myanmar, working with local vets to carry out a tongue amputation.
Three kilogrammes (6.6 pounds) of tissue was 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 yet been reported in bears.
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