Tucson lion is star Vasectomy patient

l106101-1-11On Dec. 1, 2008 in Tucson Arizona, a team of doctors headed up by Dr. Sheldon Marks, MD urologist known for his expertise in vasectomy reversal in humans. and three veterinarians performed a vasectomy on the younger of two Tucson Reid Park Zoo  lions, Kitabu. This vasectomy is part of the zoo’s plan to slowly  nuture a breeding population of lions.

“The lion anatomy is surprisingly similar to human anatomy, except covered in a thick, heavy skin and then everything is covered in a thick, dense fur,” Marks said. “Once you’re in, it’s the same as a human vasectomy. It’s just the challenge of getting to where you got to be.”

To prepare Kitabu, staff tranquilized the 363-pound lion using a dart and moved him to the zoo hospital. “Once the lion was anesthetized and resting comfortably, we did exactly like we do humans, which was we put on numbing medicine, made a tiny incision, went down and cut out the Vas, sewed it up, made it really pretty,” Marks said.

Until October the zoo had three lions: Kitabu and his parents, M’Bali and A-Tatu. A-Tatu. Kitabu’s mom was euthanized due to poor health. In the spring she will be replaced by  a young breeding age lioness from the San Diego Wild Animal Park with proper genetics.

Neither  Kitabu or M’Bali will  father  cubs because their history and family lineage is not well known even though they are healthy older lions. So the vasectomy was needed. Modern zoo breeding programs worldwide are cooperatively managed by the nation’s accredited zoos for genetic and conservation purposes. This selective breeding program needs lions with known lineages, This means that if someone wanted to read the family tree, one could trace it back to forefathers caught in the wild. This would make it possible to follow health histories of animals carefully.

“It was one of the greatest honors that they would want me to do that; to do something so unique and special,” Marks said. “It was probably one of the highlights of my life.”

Kitabu has recovered nicely, with no complications. Other residents of Reid Park Zoo who have had vasectomies include a gibbon, a lion-tailed macaque, and two mandrills, Barton said.

Performing vasectomy on lion is no easy task – ANNE T. DENOGEAN  Tucson Citizen December 25, 2008. http://www.tucsoncitizen.com/ss/local/106101.php

Image courtesy of Dr. Sheldon Marks

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