A critically endangered Amur tiger at Woburn Safari Park has had dental surgey after breaking his tooth – and the rare procedure was captured on film by CBBC’s newsround.
Male tiger Elton, the father of two young cubs, had cracked his right canine tooth and it was causing him problems where it had become infected.
Left untreated, the wound could have proved fatal in the wild but thanks to the swift action of park keepers – who are trained to spot even the smallest of injuries – Elton received the operation he needed and has made a full recovery.
Leading expert in zoological dentistry, Dr Peter Kertesz, cleaned out the offending tooth and fitted a filling to prevent infection and minimise discomfort.
Work was also carried out on the tiger’s left canine as a precaution and to ensure there was no damage to the root canal.
Elton was given a sedative before the operation and was also given oxygen and an IV drip to keep him hydrated throughout the procedure.
A real Woburn Safari star, Elton fathered two female cubs, Milashi and Mishka, who were born at the Park less than two years ago.
Together with mother Minerva, the family is genetically important to the captive tiger population across Europe, which is co-ordinated by the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP).
Reserve section head Chris Smart said: “We were initially concerned when Elton broke his tooth as it was clear he was in some pain, but thankfully Dr Kertesz was able to come out quicky to help him.
“The procedure went well and although he was a little sleepy afterwards, he has made a speedy recovery and can now be found exploring the reserve again.” He added: “Maintaining healthy individuals like Elton is very important as the captive breeding programme of Amur tigers acts as an insurance population, should re-introduction into the wild become a necessary conservation activity.”
Woburn Safari Park is home to five Amur tigers. They can be found in the Kingdom of the Carnivires, a spacious nine-acre reserve complete with sleeping platforms and and bathing pools.
It’s thought there are only about 520 Amur tigers – also known as the Siberian tiger – in the wild, a slight increase in wild numbers over the last 10 years. The species is one of the largest and most endangered in the world.