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24 / 04 / 2021
Veterinary dentist gets to the root of bear’s toothache

One of our brown bears had a visit from the dentist to have a fractured canine tooth fixed. 

Neo, the four-year-old European brown bear, underwent a root canal procedure to treat an abscess at the base of one of his canine teeth. 

His keepers noticed the problem soon after Neo, and fellow bears Albie, Nilas, and Gemini, became active following seven weeks of torpor – a slightly lighter form of hibernation.

The operation was performed just ahead of World Veterinary Day, which is celebrated on Saturday April 24, inside one of the bear dens by veterinary dentist Martin Brice, of Emerson’s Green Veterinary Surgery, along with Wild Place Project’s in-house vets Michelle Barrows and Charlotte Day. World Veterinary Day, which was created by the World Veterinary Association, is held on the last Saturday of April every year to highlight and promote the lifesaving work performed by veterinarians all over the world.

Mr Brice said: “I’m used to treating much smaller, domestic patients at my clinic in Bristol and it’s always a pleasure to be asked to help out with dental procedures on zoo animals. Neo’s root canal surgery was essential to treat the infection that caused the abscess. 

“It is possible that he might require further treatment in around six months as he’s quite a young bear and his teeth may not yet be fully mature.”

Neo was under general anaesthetic for around three hours, which also allowed Zoo vets to carry out a full health check following torpor.

Michelle Barrows, Head of Veterinary Services and Conservation Medicine at Bristol Zoological Society, said: “Neo’s dental treatment provided us with an opportunity to conduct a thorough health check.

“We regularly carry out visual checks on our animals, however a general anaesthetic provides the perfect opportunity to get up-close to our larger and more dangerous species and carry out diagnostic tests as well as physically assess their condition.

“As expected, Neo had lost some weight following torpor but is still in good body condition. His other results came back all clear and he has made a quick recovery following his dental work. 

“We’re very grateful to Martin for providing his expertise and allowing Neo to benefit from the root canal treatment.”

Bear Wood is a multi-million pound woodland exhibit at Wild Place Project, just off J17 of the M5, which transports visitors back in time to see its magnificent inhabitants as they would have lived thousands of years ago in Britain – around 8,000 BC.

The exhibit, which is sponsored by Natracare, features a raised wooden walkway which takes visitors on a journey through the trees at heights of up to four metres - offering a unique view of the animals.

Wild Place, which was recently voted ‘Visitor Attraction of the Year’ at the Bristol, Bath and Somerset Tourism Awards, officially reopened on Monday (April 12).

The arrival of spring means visitors will see the bears, who have now been successfully mixed with four European grey wolves, being more active and foraging, playing in the pool, climbing trees and play fighting together. 

Eurasian brown bears are classed as of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened species, however local populations in the wild are becoming increasingly scarce. 
Wild populations still exist in Northern Europe and in Russia, including a small but growing population in the Pyrenees, the Cantabrian Mountains in Spain, the Abruzzo in South Tyrol and Trentino regions of Italy.

The species became extinct in Britain around 1,000 AD, due to over-hunting.

Wild Place Project and Bristol Zoo Gardens are run by Bristol Zoological Society which is a conservation and education charity and relies on the generous support of the public not only to fund its important work at both zoos, but also its vital education and community outreach programme.
 
In March last year the Society launched the BZS Appeal to ensure the future of its work ‘saving wildlife together’ following the temporary closure of both its sites in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 
As school groups can now be welcomed back to both zoos, appeal donations will support the Education Bursary Fund, to ensure schools and youth groups in disadvantaged areas are able to benefit from visiting Wild Place Project and Bristol Zoo Gardens. 
 
Click here to make a donation or find out more about the BZS appeal.

Book tickets to Wild Place Project online in advance here.

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