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Big CAT scan

LONDON (AFP) – How do you treat an endangered 12-year-old lion with persistent earache? Normally, the answer is: with difficulty.

But London Zoo on Monday said they made the process easier by hiring a CAT scanner for Bhanu the lion to find out the cause of his repeated ear infections.

The equipment was brought in to prevent the 180-kilogramme Asiatic lion having to be sedated and transported off-site for tests.

Senior veterinary officer Taina Strike said the zoo hit upon the intervention as part of a long-term treatment plan for the animal.

“We first had to find out what was causing the problem and urgently rule out any worst-case scenarios, such as a tumour or a deep-seated infection, which would show up on a CAT scan immediately,” she said.

“Bhanu is an important member of the European-wide breeding programme for endangered Asiatic lions and deserves the very best care, 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 sedated in his den then taken to the scanner on the back of a flatbed truck. Six members of staff then manoeuvred him into position on the scanner.

Specialists from around the world dialled in to diagnose the problem, which was found to be a very narrow left ear canal 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,” said Strike.

While he was under anaesthetic, vets gave the big cat’s ear a thorough clean before he was deposited back in his den.

Bhanu the lion was given a CAT scan to determine the cause of his recurring ear infections. PHOTO: AFP