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Big cat gets a CAT scan at London Zoo for the first time

Asiatic lion Bhanu has CAT scan at ZSL London Zoo.
Asiatic lion Bhanu has CAT scan at ZSL London Zoo.   -   Copyright  ZSL London Zoo
By Doloresz Katanich

A big cat with earache got the star treatment at London Zoo on Monday.

The veterinary team hired a mobile CAT scanner to investigate their Asiatic lion’s recurrent ear infections.

Veterinarians treating the 12-year-old lion brought the scanner to the London Zoological Society (ZSL) conservation zoo to thoroughly investigate his troublesome left ear canal, after other measures failed to resolve the issue.

“Bhanu is an important member of the European-wide breeding programme for endangered Asiatic lions and deserves the very best care,” says the zoo’s senior veterinary officer Taina Strike.

“So we arranged the full VIP treatment; bringing a CAT scanner to a big cat for the first time, so we could see deeper into his ear without him needing to travel.”

Bhanu was safely anaesthetised before being carefully transported to the mobile CAT scanner on the back of a flatbed truck.

From there, it took six members of ZSL’s team to gently lift the 180kg lion into the correct position on the scanner.

ZS London Zoo
It took six members of ZSL’s team to gently lift the 180kg lion into the correct position on the scanner.ZS London Zoo

The diagnostics also involved experts from across the globe, as a scan specialist in Australia with experience of working with big cats was also present via video link to live assess the results.

Big cats can naturally get ear infections too.

The team could quickly rule out any worst-case scenarios, such as a tumour or a deep-seated infection, which would show up on a CAT scan immediately.

They concluded that Bhanu had a very narrow left ear canal, which was prone to blockages and infections.

“Just like your pet cat at home, big cats can naturally get ear infections too, which are normally treated with ear drops,” says Taina.

Vets took the opportunity to give Bhanu’s ear a thorough clean and treatment, before taking the big cat back to his home to wake up.

The team have since formed a long-term treatment plan for his care.

Instead of ear drops, the important feline will receive regular oral medication to reduce inflammation in his ear canal, anti-fungals to manage any infection and a comprehensive ear clean during his annual health check.

Watch the video above to see how Bhanu had his CAT scan.

Video editor • Nathalie Texier