Edinburgh PhD candidate helps save ill bear in Vietnam

The University of Edinburgh’s Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies has been working with veterinary nurses in Vietnam aiding a bear who was made ill by a mosquito bite.

The bear, named Nyan htoo, his mother, and cubs, were initially destined for illegal sale in China, however the animals were saved by monks in Myanmar. Once rescued it became apparent that Nyan htoo’s tongue was abnormally large. Vets believe this to be the consequence of a mosquito bite, likely to have occurred whilst Nyan htoo was a cub.

Nyan htoo’s first operation took place 2016, but was ineffective. Swelling around the mouth increased and worsened over time. The bear’s tongue became so large that it impaired its ability to walk.

Heather Bacon, animal welfare expert and veterinary surgeon at the Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies, in collaboration with Caroline Nelson, veterinary nurse at the Asia Bear Rescue Centre in Vietnam, cared for and treated Nyan htoo, removing three kilogrammes of tissues from its body.

The two were helped by Romain Pizzi, from Wildlife Surgery International, and local vets, for the four hour operation, which took place in Vietnam.

Surgery was successful and Nyan htoo is said to be recovering well. The bear is now able to move freely.

According to Caroline Nelson, Nyan htoo’s  medical condition was quite an anomaly, and has never been seen in any species of bear before.

Heather Bacon is currently working toward her PhD from the Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies’ Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education. Her PhD researches “current knowledge and attitudes to animal behaviour and welfare amongst zoo staff across Europe and China”.

Bacon has been studying the gaps between animal welfare and behaviour knowledge, alongside the barriers to delivering training to zoo staff. The aim of her PhD is to promote animal health and encourage education programs across veterinary clinics and zoos.  

Bacon was grateful about the enthusiastic involvement and compassion displayed in the, “uniquely collaborative (Nyan htoo) project”, which permitted to “make a tangible improvement in the quality of Nyan htoo’s life”.

Image: Lộc An, Bà Rịa @Flickr

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