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Veterinarians pull tooth from 408-pound lion in Australia

By Ben Hooper Contact the Author   |   Feb. 24, 2016 at 12:46 PM
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PERTH, Australia, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- A 408-pound lion residing at Australia's Perth Zoo underwent a procedure that can turn even the most docile animal into a fierce beast: a tooth extraction.

The zoo said 13-year-old Mandela, one of three lions living at the Perth facility, was found to be suffering from two cracked teeth and a dental infection during an exam two weeks ago, so specialist veterinarians were called in to extract the infected tooth Wednesday.

"Often predators in captivity give you very little in the way of clinical signs, so we didn't even know that Mandela had a dental infection until we anesthetized him and had a look," Simone Vitali, the zoo's senior veterinarian, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

"It's quite amazing the sort of things they will tolerate," Vitali said. "A tooth infection for us would lay us out for days but with them they just keep trucking on. So it's important for us as custodians to do what we can to make them comfortable, even if they're not giving us an indication that they're not comfortable."

Vitali said Mandela was sedated for two hours so the team could extract his infected tooth.

"They're big teeth and they take a lot of work to get out so for today we've just removed the one that was infected," she said. "That's come out nicely so that's a load off our minds."

The zoo said lions rarely live past the age of 14 in the wild, but it is not unheard of for zoo lions to reach the age of 30 due to superior diet and medical care.

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