An Elephant Walks Into the Dentist…

Lucha the Asian elephant
Lucha the Asian elephant

An elephant walks into the dentist…or really the dentist came to the elephant.

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo had to call in a dentist when one of their elephants was suffering from massive tooth pain.

The zoos female Asian elephant, Lucha, who is 33-years-old wasn’t eating her food.
When the keepers noticed this they called in the vets and when they had a good look they managed to find the issue. A loose tooth had moved and became infected.
Vets called upon the expertise of West End dental surgeon Dr. Peter Kertesz, a specialist in zoo dentistry, to help the team extract the massive molar.

You might think that gentle creatures like elephants would find the process of being at the dentist quite daunting but really it was quite the opposite. Nic Masters, Head Vet at the Zoological Society of London, said:

“While most people dread the idea of a visit to the dentist, for Lucha the elephant it was a relaxed experience, due to the regular training and close relationship she has with our keepers.
“The keepers quickly noticed when Lucha was off her food, and as soon as we identified the problem tooth, we called upon expert zoo dentist Dr Peter Kertesz to help out.
“When anaesthetizing an animal, we can’t predict what side they’ll lie down on, but thanks to training, Lucha was able to lay down on the right side, ensuring we could access her gum easily, and quickly remove the tooth to get her back on her feet as soon as possible.”

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Lucha is part of the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP), along with the rest of her herd. The 11 Asian elephants are of paramount importance to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo as the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species classifies Asian elephants as Endangered. Therefore, keeping them healthy and happy is key for the zoo. ZSL has also been working in Salakpra Wildlife Sanctuary in western Thailand to help fight the human-elephant conflict that threatens lives and livelihoods and protect the forest ecosystem.

Ensuring the safety of endangered animals like Lucha should be important to everyone and that’s why, like the rest of us, she has to go to the dentist sometimes too!

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