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A rare Sumatran Tiger will get a full dental check-up and root canal therapy at Taronga Zoo today.

During a previous examination, veterinarians discovered that ‘Satu’, Taronga Zoo’s four year old Sumatran Tiger had broken a tooth which needed further attention.   

Taronga Zoo’s Senior Veterinarian, Larry Vogelnest said: “Adult tigers have 30 teeth with some of them very large – their canine teeth can be several centimetres long. Their teeth  are specially adapted for tearing flesh apart, acting like a pair of scissors when they  chew, which makes for a very interesting dental patient.”

“Although Satu was not showing any outward signs of pain, we have called on the expertise of Veterinary Dentist, Dr. David Clarke, to take a closer look at the broken tooth and perform root canal therapy to safeguard against any infection.”

Dr. Clarke is one of a small number of specialist veterinary dentists in Australia. He has a long-standing relationship with Taronga and Taronga Western Plains Zoos having looked after the dental health of the Zoos’ Sun Bears, Lions, Tigers, Meerkats and other wild animals for many years.  Many of David’s dental instruments are specially designed and adapted to enable him to treat these exotic animal patients. 

For human patients, root canal therapy is one of the most feared procedures, however Satu will be blissfully unaware as he will be fully anesthetised. 

Satu has been specially trained  to be hand injected with the anesthetic drug.  Such is the relationship between the keepers and Satu, this majestic animal is the first big cat at Taronga Zoo to be fully anesthetised by hand injection. This eliminates the need to use an anesthetic dart gun, ensuring the animal  remains comfortable, calm and stress-free. 

Following his procedure, Satu will be given pain relief and antibiotics. It is expected that the young male will be able to eat meat off the bone within a week. Taronga’s carnivores are fed a varied diet including chicken, rabbit and beef.

Sadly Sumatran Tigers are listed as critically endangered.  In 1994 Sumatran Tigers were placed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature 'Red' list. Sumatran Tigers are on the brink of extinction, with approximately 600 remaining in the wild today. 

Nearly 400 Sumatran Tigers are in human care, making zoo breeding programs vital to their survival. Zoos may soon be the only places future generations will be able to see these big cats and discover the devastating impact humans have had on their population.

Taronga Zoo is part of an international breeding program for Sumatran Tigers.  Satu, which means ‘One’ in Indonesian, came to Taronga 18 months ago via Taronga Western Plains Zoo, following his arrival from Stuttgart Zoo in Germany. Satu was brought to Australia as part of the regional Sumatran Tiger Breeding Program, which aims to diversify the Australian genetic line and create an insurance population in case of a complete collapse in the wild of this beautiful species.

The Sumatran Tiger is only found in fragmented jungle areas of the island of Sumatra, and is the smallest of the Tiger sub-species. The main threats continue to be caused by humans and include habitat destruction and poaching with certain body parts used in traditional medicines and Sumatran Tiger pelts are considered prime hunting trophies.  

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