Guero, the 15-year-old African lion was rescued from Mexico this year with a broken back and badly damaged teeth.
To help save Guero, he was taken to the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences so veterinary experts could create a treatment plan.
Guero traveled to Fort Collins in a grass-lined trailer.
The 345-pound lion was airlifted from an animal rescue in Pachuca, Mexico April 24 to his new home at the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg.
He had been living at the rescue in Mexico for two months after being surrendered by his owner.
Veterinary experts in many fields have collaborated to try to save Guero. They think he broke his neck two and a half years ago, perhaps by a guillotine-type gate in his cage. They say his owner came home from vacation and noticed Guero hanging his head, walking in circles and in pain.
In order to do any tests on him, Guero had to be sedated.
Dr. Gregg Griffenhagen, a CSU veterinary anesthesiologist stayed with Guero.
“Anesthetizing a lion is both different from a dog or a cat, and yet very much the same,” said Griffenhagen. “Most of the differences arise from the facts that these animals are often large and they cannot be closely approached. My job was to remotely immobilize and anesthetize my patient without any physical exam, and to do it in such a manner that everyone, including the patient, stayed safe and healthy.”
CSU veterinarians performed an MRI on Guero. It took six people using slings to lift him from his cage to a gurney for the MRI. Vets found a neck fracture that had healed wrong.
Veterinarians determined it would be hard to perform surgery because of his age, spinal disease and the time that had passed since his injury.
They started Guero on a steroid treatment to help him feel better and improve his mobility.
Veterinarians also found Guero had broken teeth, gum disease and exposed roots in his mouth, probably from gnawing on the bars of his cage. Specialists cleaned up his teeth but he will probably need root canals.
Guero returned to the Wild Animal Sanctuary on Monday to begin his steroid therapy and to receive more dental care.
Lions usually live between 12 and 15 years in the wild and up to 23 in captivity, so the sanctuary will likely be Guero’s last home.
Rebecca Miceli, Director of Animal Care at the Wild Animal Sanctuary said Guero will be comfortable and happy with good food, soft ground, grass to play on and fresh air to breathe.