29 June 2023

An endangered lion with earache has been given the VIP treatment by vets at London Zoo, who called on specialists from across the country to help clean out the 174kg feline’s ears. 

The treatment formed part of a long-term medical plan for 13-year-old Asiatic lion Bhanu, which was put in motion after a rather big-CAT scan last year revealed that persistent ear infections were being caused by an unusually narrow ear canal. 
All creatures great and small can develop ear infections, but the scan revealed ear drops weren’t reaching the problem area because of the size of his ear canal - so Bhanu was prescribed regular inflammatory and anti-fungal medication, as well as an annual health-check and ear clean, which was carried out last week (21 June). 
London Zoo Veterinarian Stefan Saverimuttu said: “Bhanu’s comfort and wellbeing are our top priorities, and they inform every decision we make. We filled his cosy indoor den with soft straw in preparation for the procedure, and thanks to expert training from London Zoo’s zookeepers and veterinary nurses, Bhanu chose to calmly present his leg so we could administer the general anaesthetic. It took no time at all before Bhanu drifted off under his cooling blanket - designed to regulate his temperature - and we could get to work cleaning his ear.”  

Bhanu has his ear cleaned at London Zoo
A close up of Asiatic lion Bhanu's ear
A close up of Asiatic lion Bhanu's paw

A specialist endoscopy camera the size of a pipe-cleaner was gently fed down Bhanu’s long ear canal, giving the vet team a crystal-clear view of the inside of his ear: this allowed them to give the whole passage a good clean and directly administer medication to target the cause of the infection.  
Bhanu’s ear check-up brought together experts from ZSL’s veterinary team, the Royal Veterinary College and veterinary equipment specialists STORZ, who provided the very specialist camera used in the procedure. Information from the procedure will be shared with wildlife veterinarians around the world to continuously improve the quality of care given to the threatened species globally. 
“This yearly check-up helps us to provide the very best care for Bhanu’s ears, but also means we can monitor his overall health at the same time - checking his eyes, teeth and heart are all in tip top condition too. This is vital for Bhanu, but also for his species; Bhanu is an important member of the European-wide breeding programme for endangered Asiatic lions, designed to protect a healthy and genetically diverse population in conservation zoos across Europe.” 
After waking up from his aesthetic, Bhanu was soon back to prowling around his Land of the Lions home with lioness Arya. The team will continue to monitor Bhanu’s ear over the coming months and will perform another ear clean next year. 

Asiatic lion Bhanu lying in the shade at London Zoo

ZSL’s expert vets and vet nurses care for more than 380 species at London Zoo, many of which are threatened in the wild and part of important global breeding programmes. 

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Protecting Asiatic lions

ZSL, the international conservation charity behind London Zoo, has worked to protect the 600 remaining Asiatic lions in the Gir Forest of Western India - the species’ last remaining natural habitat. ZSL conservationists work alongside local communities and businesses to protect the future of these incredible big cats.  

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