A human dentist who has previously treated the toothsome problems of a tiger and a gorilla has added a seal pup to his list of unusual patients.

Peter Kertesz operates on South American fur seal pup Gemini’s teeth.
Peter Kertesz operates on South American fur seal pup Gemini.

Staring into the mouth of a large animal would be a daunting prospect for many dentists, but not for Peter Kertesz, one of the world’s few specialist zoo dentists. He has previously worked with gorillas, whales, pandas and elephants across the globe.

Abscess

So when staff at Torquay coastal zoo Living Coasts – owned by Paignton Zoo – found an abscess on one of two-year-old South American fur seal pup Gemini’s teeth, they contacted Mr Kertesz.

The last time Mr Kertesz was at Paignton, his patient was a gorilla; before that, it was a tiger. And he was seemingly unfazed by his latest challenge.

He said: “Animals or people, it’s all the same – they need treatment, they get treatment. The size is what varies – and the location. It is all about teamwork.

Hard and serious work

Human dentist Peter Kertesz has previously operated on a tiger and gorilla.
Human dentist Peter Kertesz has previously operated on a tiger and gorilla.

“People often ask me if it is fun working on gorillas and tigers. It certainly is not fun. It is very hard and serious work – the health and sometimes the life of a rare creature is in your hands.”

To prepare for the operation, Gemini, who weighs 30kg, was trained to go into a special travel crate.

Jo Reynard, from Paignton Zoo’s vet team, said canine teeth are always challenging, as they are big teeth set well into the bone.

“If this tooth is not removed, the abscess may eventually effect the structure of the jaw. This could well be life-threatening,” she said.

Top team

The team assembled for the job was:

  • Paignton Zoo vets Jo Reynard and Ghislaine Sayers
  • vet nurse Celine Campana
  • mammal keeper Kate Jenner
  • Living Coasts keeper Libor Mach

Mr Kertesz was assisted by his dental nurse, Monika Mazurkiewicz.

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