add angle-downbadge calendarcard check-circle-ocheck clockemail envelope-oexclamation-circleexternal-link-squareexternal-linkfacebook-squarefacebook fighting-extinction flag-checkeredgift green-check info-circleinstagram-squareinstagram linkedin lock logo-healesville-inverse Healesville Sanctuary logoCreated with Sketch. logo-melbourne-inverse Melbourne Zoo logoCreated with Sketch. logo-werribee-inverse Werribee Zoo logo CopyCreated with Sketch. logo-zv-icons logo-zv-inverse logo-zv mime-pdf minus-boulderminus-circlepencilphone pinterest plus-boulderplus-circleremove tick timestwitter-squaretwitter vic-gov youtube

Big cat scan shows off extraordinary incisors at Melbourne Zoo

12 March 2019

X-rays of one Melbourne Zoo’s Sumatran tigers have provided a rare look at the impressive teeth of this critically endangered species.

The extraordinary scans of tiger, Hutan, were taken during a visit to the veterinary clinic and showcase the majestic carnivore’s incisors – the sharp teeth which are used to grasp prey.

A team of Melbourne Zoo keepers and veterinarians transported the 1.5-metre long, 127-kilogram tiger to the zoo’s hospital to obtain the X-rays, in what was a seamless journey for Hutan. He voluntarily presented his paw to keepers for a hand injection, enabling him to be transported and assessed by staff whilst under general anesthetic.

Melbourne Zoo veterinarian Kate Bodley said check-ups like these provided the zoo’s vets and dental specialist Dr David Clarke with important insights into the oral health of the zoo's trio of Sumatran tigers.

"Melbourne Zoo keepers train an ‘mouth open’ behaviour with many of the zoo’s animals. This allows keepers to do regular check-ups teeth without the need for an anesthetic,” said Dr Bodley

“However the keepers identified a potential problem affecting his incisors, so the veterinary team have addressed the issue during a series of specialist dental procedures.

"Last year, the late Dr Stephen Coles performed the initial dental procedure on Hutan. Dr Clarke is generously continuing this highly specialised dental work for us.

“For this procedure we used a specialised dental X-ray machine to get a really close look at each individual tooth. This allows us to assess the health of the bone and search for any sign of an abscess.”

Dr Bodley said this visit to the dentist turned out to be an important one for Hutan.

“After an assessment of Hutan’s teeth, Dr Clarke identified that Hutan required two root canals and three tooth extractions,” said Dr Bodley

“Hutan has been wearing down his incisors, so we keep a close eye on his teeth health.”

Dr Bodley said vets and keepers were very pleased with Hutan’s recovery.

“He was very comfortable throughout the entire procedure,” said Dr Bodley. “He’s had a very quick recovery and was looking terrific the next day, enjoying a special milk feed from keepers.”

Sumatran tigers are native to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, but the species faces an uphill battle for survival, with fewer than 400 remaining in the wild. Hunting and destruction of their natural rainforest habitats to clear for palm oil plantations are the species’ biggest threats.

Zoos Victoria has launched a renewed social media campaign #LabelPalmOilAlready, to push for mandatory labelling of palm oil on all products, allowing consumers to make an informed choice about the items they purchase.

Visitors can see Melbourne Zoo’s trio of Sumatran tigers from 9am-5pm, seven days a week.