A bear had to have his tongue removed during emergency surgery because it grew so big it was dragging on the floor.
Nyan Htoo had to undergo a four-hour operation to take away nearly half a stone of tongue tissue after he contracted a mystery illness that made his tongue swell massively.
The bear – who’s name means ‘bright’ – was rescued as a cub along with his brother by a monastery in Myanmar.
The pair had been destined for illegal sale in China before monks stepped in to save them.
Nyan Htoo had to undergo a four-hour operation to take away nearly half a stone of tongue tissue after he contracted a mystery illness that made his tongue swell massively
Nyan Htoo before surgery showing his huge swollen tounge. The bear – who’s name means ‘bright’ – was rescued as a cub along with his brother by a monastery in Myanmar
Nyan Htoo after surgery to remove the tounge. The bear had to have his tongue removed during emergency surgery because it grew so big it was dragging on the floor
Soon after their rescue, it became clear that Nyan Htoo was suffering from an unknown disease that caused his tongue to become monstrously enlarged.
A team of experts team travelled to Myanmar, working with local vets to carry out the tongue amputation.
Nearly half a stone of tissue was removed in the operation, which lasted four hours in soaring temperatures.
Vets first operated on Nyan Htoo in 2016 in an attempt to remove the excess tissue.
Despite making a good initial recovery, the swelling came back and even got worse, leaving the poor animal with a bloated tongue hanging out of his mouth.
While he was still able to play and wrestle with his brother, his tongue dragged around on the floor, by June 2017 the disease was seriously affecting Nyan Htoo’s quality of life.
After examination, the veterinary team believe the swelling may have been caused by a mosquito-transmitted infection called elephantiasis.
The condition is common in humans in Myanmar but has never been reported in bears.
The team says the young bear is recovering well and they expect he can go on to have a more normal quality of life.
Heather Bacon, of the Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education at the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, 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.’
The pair had been destined for illegal sale in China before monks stepped in to save them
Animal welfare expert and veterinary surgeon Heather Bacon 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 in preparing a plan to alleviate the animal’s suffering, with help from charities the Winton Foundation for the Welfare of Bears and Free the Bears.
Caroline Nelson, veterinary nurse at Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre, said: ‘This was a really unusual medical condition – never before seen in any species of bear – but we weren’t about to give up on Nyan Htoo.
‘We’re delighted that we’ve been able to improve his quality of life.
‘Now he will be able to eat much more comfortably, sleep in more natural positions and move more freely for the rest of his life.’