United Kingdom vets help bear with 'monstrously enlarged' tongue

Tuesday, 24 Oct, 2017

The bear's name is Nyan htoo and he had nearly been captured by traffickers who would have sent him to China tobe killed for his gall bladder bile, which is in high demand there for use in traditional medicine.

Veterinary surgeon Heather Bacon of the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom worked with Caroline Nelson of the Animals Asia Bear Rescue Centre in Vietnam and Romain Pizzi of Wildlife Surgery International to remove three kilograms of tissue from Nyan htoo's tongue in a four-hour procedure.

A bear needed surgery to remove its tongue - because it was so massive that it dragged on the ground, according to reports.

Moon bears, like Nyan htoo, are often kept in a cramped cages and "milked" for their bile which is highly prized in Oriental medicine.

But fortunately for Nyan htoo, monks came to the rescue and took him to a monastery in rural Myanmar.

Heather Bacon, a veterinary surgeon from the University of Edinburgh's Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, was part of the team that operated on the bear. The Guardian reports on the plight of Nyan htoo, who recently underwent emergency surgery to remove 7 pounds of tissue from a tongue so large he couldn't keep it in his mouth.

They removed more than three kilograms of tissue during the surgery, which lasted more than four hours.

Despite a good initial recovery, the swelling recurred and led to the expert team flying recently into Myanmar to work with local vets to ease Nyan htoo's suffering.

She added: "Having to carry around [6.6 pounds] of tongue is not normal, and that's a lot of weight on his jaw and head".

The cub is recovering well and expected to have a better, more normal quality of life.


The vets believe the tongue's swelling could have been congenital or caused by the mosquito-borne parasitic infection elephantiasis, which is common in humans but has not previously been recorded in other animals.