February 20, 2015, LIMA, PERU: Lions and tigers in traveling circuses often suffer in silent agony for years due to broken and infected teeth. A blow to the face of a lion during training or when the animal is being moved, can leave a lion with broken and infected teeth and a lifetime of pain.
Animal Defenders International (ADI) is engaged in an operation with the Peruvian authorities, SERFOR, to end the use of wild animals in traveling circuses. There are now 21 lions removed from circuses in the ADI Operation Spirit of Freedom rescue center just outside Lima and a significant number of the lions have traumatic injuries to their teeth.
This week Dr. Peter Emily, regarded by many as the inventor of veterinary dentistry, flew in from the USA with a team from the Peter Emily Foundation to perform dental surgery on two of the most urgent cases. Damage which, left unattended, had the potential to be lethal.
Simba, a lion saved from a circus in Ayacucho, suffered with a large canine tooth with its top smashed off. The damaged tooth had become infected and split. Simba was anaesthetized and carried on a stretcher to the field operating theatre in the rescue center.
Dr. Emily salvaged the tooth by cutting more off and then building a custom brace to bind the remaining tooth together, saving the tooth. The lion’s other damaged teeth were also cleaned out and repaired.
Junior, the oldest lion in the ADI rescue center at 17 years old, had massive infected dental damage. When pus had erupted through the old lion’s cheek, the ADI veterinary team called in Dr. Emily. The dentist reviewed the images sent by the ADI vets and decided he should operate with some urgency. Dr. Emily made the most urgent repairs, during procedures that lasted over an hour, but says he will have to undertake further surgery to completely repair the damage to Junior’s teeth.
A group of Lima veterinary students who are volunteering in the ADI Spirit of Freedom Rescue Center were able to work with the ADI veterinarians monitoring and keeping the lions stable during surgery and saw close-up, the world’s best veterinary dentists at work.
Jan Creamer ADI President, who is leading the rescue mission said: “It is a privilege to have the Dr. Peter Emily Foundation team working with ADI here in Peru. Many circus animals not only endure confinement and abuse but also the silent agony from the injuries inflicted on them. Two old lions have woken up feeling better than they have in years thanks to Dr. Emily’s surgery today. We believe having the Peruvian veterinary students here to watch, will leave a lasting legacy of care for animals in Peru.”
After completing the surgery, Dr. Peter Emily, whose foundation donates their services to projects like ADI’s, noted philosophically: “All we’ve all got to offer is time, you may as well use it for something worthwhile.”
The lions recovered rapidly from the procedures and were soon roaring again in the afternoon. Tomorrow the team will be assessing 22 monkeys at the center, also rescued during ADI’s Operation Spirit of Freedom.
In the coming weeks almost 60 animals rescued during ADI’s Operation Spirit of Freedom will be relocated to permanent homes – with ADI currently engaged in building habitats in the Amazon forest for rescued native wildlife. The 21 lions from Peruvian circuses will be joined by 9 lions from Colombian circuses on the Spirit of Freedom Flight to huge enclosures in a sanctuary in Colorado.
Dr. Emily will be performing dental surgery on most of the lions once they reach their new home and will resume work on Junior’s teeth.
Having rescued the animals, ADI is seeking funds for this huge relocation mission, ¬ the biggest of its kind ever undertaken.