Thursday 29 September 2016

Sea lions brush up their smiles

Published 19/05/2015 | 11:56

Poppy the sea lion has her teeth cleaned by head keeper Frances Reid at Blair Drummond Safari Park near Stirling
Poppy the sea lion has her teeth cleaned by head keeper Frances Reid at Blair Drummond Safari Park near Stirling

A group of sea lions have been getting their teeth cleaned to help mark the start of a national oral health campaign.

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The animals, who live at Blair Drummond Safari Park near Stirling, lined up to get their gnashers polished as National Smile Month got under way around the UK.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of health issues and improve the oral health of millions of people throughout the country.

And while brushing a sea lion's teeth might seem an odd thing to do, park bosses insist it is vital to their welfare.

Head keeper Frances Reid said: "Sea lions will live a lot longer in captivity then their wild counterparts, so their teeth need to last a lot longer.

"Just like our own teeth, we need to control the amount of plaque building up on them and reduce the amount of decay.

"Also if our sea lions get something stuck in their teeth, we can remove it easily without the need to put them under general anaesthetic and call the vet in."

One of the sea lions, 10-year-old Poppy, was trained at an early age to get her teeth cleaned.

Trainer Sam Clark said: "We achieved it through positive reinforcement, so lots of encouragement and food rewards until she had complete trust in us and was confident to have her teeth brushed.

"A sea lion has 18 teeth on the bottom jaw and 18 on the top, and they only have one set of teeth in their lifetime, so we need to be able to inspect them daily."

Press Association

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