It can be a difficult task convincing anyone to go to the dentist for an extraction, let alone a 185-kilogram male lion.
Specialist vets were called to Perth Zoo to remove a tooth from 13-year-old Mandela, one of three African lions at Perth Zoo.
Senior vet Simone Vitali said a routine examination two weeks ago uncovered two cracked teeth and a dental infection that required attention.
“Often predators in captivity give you very little in the way of clinical signs, so we didn’t even know that Mandela had a dental infection until we anaesthetised him and had a look,” Dr Vitali said.
“It’s quite amazing the sort of things they will tolerate.
“A tooth infection for us would lay us out for days but with them they just keep trucking on.
“So it’s important for us as custodians to do what we can to make them comfortable, even if they’re not giving us an indication that they’re not comfortable.”
Mandela spent two hours sedated so he could have his tooth extracted.
“They’re big teeth and they take a lot of work to get out so for today we’ve just removed the one that was infected,” Dr Vitali said.
“That’s come out nicely so that’s a load off our minds.”
The big cat is getting on compared to his relatives in the wild, which usually only live to about 10 years of age.
However, his head keeper at Perth Zoo Leonie Perovic said he had plenty of years left in him.
“Most of the lions in the wild die of infection caused by exactly this sort of thing, broken teeth, or fights over food with other lions or predators,” Ms Perovic said.
“They don’t have this sort of medical or keeper care in the wild though.
“In captivity they can live up until about 25.”
Mandela will now be returned to his enclosure to recover and will be closely monitored by zoo staff.
But, unfortunately for him, he has got another dental procedure just around the corner.
At least one other tooth will need to be removed in the coming weeks.