Team of ten tackle tiger toothache

When a 23-stone tiger needs root canal surgery it requires more than a simple visit from the vet dentist!


A team of ten specialists was called upon to treat Blackpool Zoo’s Amur Tiger, Alyona, in a successful two-stage operation to repair her 12cm canine teeth.

Alyona, who turned eight on June 2nd, arrived at Blackpool Zoo in 2012 from her birthplace at Safaripark Beekse Bergen in the Netherlands. In 2014 she gave birth to two male cubs, Barney and Radzi who were the first cubs to arrive at Blackpool Zoo in more than 18 years.

The President of the British Veterinary Dental Association, Dr Alex Smithson, two specialist vets, five expert zoo-keepers and two registered veterinary nurses all worked together to perform the operations at the Big Cat House at Blackpool Zoo.

Stage one was carried out on the mother-of-two earlier this year and the second stage was completed in June in a five-and-a half-hour operation.

Dr Alex Smithson said: “With a procedure like this there’s a lot of work involved with days of organisation, planning, equipment preparation and then operating in testing conditions, so it is essential the team functions together well. 

“Everyone was fantastic to work with; enthusiastic, friendly and professional. The net result is a synergistic combination of diverse skills and knowledge committed to prioritising Alyona's health and welfare.”

Zoo vets Karen Archer and Andrew Moore of Lancashire based Oakhill Veterinary Surgery worked alongside Dr Alex Smithson and his two registered veterinary nurses Claire Bloor and Rachel Wager.


Blackpool Zoo’s Head Keeper, Luke Minns, and the Section Head of Large Mammals, Adam Kenyon, were helped by mammal keepers Andrew McNelly, Lauren Ogden and Clare Westwood. 


Zoo vet Karen Archer said: “Planning not one, but two, dental surgeries on the largest of the big cat species is no mean feat!

Adam Kenyon, Section Head of Large Mammals, added: “We are delighted with the results of the two procedures and Alyona has made a full recovery.


“Our sincere thanks go to everyone involved - the welfare of our beloved animals is our top priority and only the best will do when it comes to performing such complex operations.”