Thursday, 15 August 2013

The leopard and the dentist - the story behind the picture.

                                    This was no zoo leopard, it was a wild one - really wild.

Dr. Cobus Raath was still a youngster, and chief of game capture in the Kruger National Park. Irma Green (is still a youngster) was a junior reporter at The Lowvelder newspaper at the time.
“At the time” was a long time ago – Cobus has gone places (Prof. Raath nowadays) and so has Irma – she is now group editor at Lowveld Media.  And I’m still here – older and wiser.

Well, older anyway.

It started with a phone call by Cobus from Skukuza. A young male leopard had been looking for new territory in a place he shouldn’t have been looking.
When caught in a capture cage for relocation, the leopard freaked out and broke a lower canine in an attempt to fight its way out. The nerve of the tooth was exposed, and Cobus wanted to know “what now?”

Dental-wise it was a no-brainer. A dental abscess would develop, with potentially horrific consequences for both the leopard and any humans within reach.

Cobus had to bring the animal in to my surgery in White River for a proper root canal treatment and restoration.

It was crisis time and pandemonium reigned. The roots of a leopard’s canine teeth being considerably longer than those of a human, I knew my root canal instruments weren’t going to be up to the job. Fortunately I managed to procure the necessary veterinary files and reamers at short notice.
Irma somehow got wind of this, and informed me (informed me?!) that she would be at my surgery at 8 pm.
Cobus would transport the sedated animal in the capture cage (some 80 Km) and we would do the rooty while the animal was sedated. Seemed a good idea at the time.

The leopard saw things differently. It started waking up halfway through the journey, and Cobus phoned me. It would be risky to use more sedation, so we had to prepare for a full, general anaesthetic. Like in a hospital theatre.

Dentists don’t have Boyles machines and theatre stuff in their surgeries. Fortunately a local vet had a portable machine, and he obliged.

On arrival, the leopard was once again groggily raring for a fight. Those were sweaty moments long to be remembered.  Leopards have lots of sharp ends, and have no qualms about applying them.

To cut a long story short, we got it into the dental chair and did what needed to be done, while Irma was merrily snapping away and giving advice. Following the root canal treatment I would have preferred to restore the tooth with a gold overlay, for various technical/clinical reasons. This not being feasible, we had to make do with a trusty old amalgam filling. I will not go into technical stuff here, but if any dentist wishes to ask questions about it, please do so via email – I promise to respond.

I requested Cobus to keep the animal under observation for at least three weeks before releasing it, and to put a radio collar on it so that I could do a follow-up in a couple of months. One of his veterinary assistants decided after a week to release it without informing him – after all, the leopard seemed quite happy.

Just imagine some archaeological dig in the far distant future: A leopard, in an area that used to be totally wild, with a root canal treatment and a dental restoration. I can imagine the unbridled theories….

I hope the leopard reigned long and well in its new territory.

1 comment:

  1. Briljant!
    Ken die storie en die mense....

    Dr Ignus Terblanche