Chicago Vets Travel To Colombia To Save Elephant's Tusk

Tantor, the 47-year-old elephant used mud to lessen his pain caused by a common disease

By Victoria Coleman
|  Friday, Jun 15, 2012  |  Updated 10:31 PM CDT
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Veterinarians from Brookfield Zoo near Chicago flew to Colombia to help an elephant that suffered from a sore tusk.

Veterinarians from Brookfield Zoo near Chicago flew to Colombia to help an elephant that suffered from a sore tusk.

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Two Chicago veterinarians made a house call last weekend to save an elephant’s tusk.

The "house" was Barranquilla Zoo, located more than 2,000 miles in Colombia, South America. 

Tantor, a 47-year-old African bush elephant, had begun inserting mud inside his tusk to lessen the pain caused by myasis, a common infection in the African bush elephant species that affects the soft tissue close to the tusk.
 
After Tantor was diagnosed with the disease, veterinarians from the Chicago Zoological Society (CZS), which manages Brookfield Zoo, made the trip to assist in Tantor's root canal oral surgery. The oral surgery was the first-of-its-kind to be performed on an elephant in Colombia.
 
Dr. Carlos Sanchez and Dr. Michael Adkesson performed the three-and-a-half hour root canal with the help of four other specialists June 9. According to a zoo statement, Sanchez advised Barranquilla Zoo on how to treat and control the condition until the surgery could be performed.
 
“We are thrilled to donate our time and resources and the expertise we’ve developed over the years caring for the animals at Brookfield Zoo in order to help another zoo improve the wellbeing of an animal in need,” said Dr. Sanchez in a statement.
 
The surgery was a success and Tantor fortunately didn’t have to lose his tusk because no fractures were found. Veterinarians removed all the compiled mud, and cleaned and filled the infected area with dental cement.
 
Chicago Zoological Society’s veterinary staff and Dr. Camilo Tapia, head of the Veterinary Department at Barranquilla Zoo, guided the procedure that included support from a board certified dentist and oral surgeon from the Animal Dental Clinic in Virginia, an endodontist, and a specialist in oral surgery.

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