A team of dental experts have flown to Armenia to repair the teeth of a rescued bear.

Misha the brown bear was rescued in 2023 by UK NGO International Animal Rescue (IAR) and its partners FPWC in Armenia.

The bear was found wandering on the outskirts of an Armenian village. It’s likely he had escaped from captivity or been abandoned and left to fend for himself.

Misha, the brown bear.

Misha, the brown bear.

During a medical check, while he was under anaesthetic, it was discovered that most of Misha’s teeth were broken and decaying, and his gums were infected and swollen. He had clearly spent years gnawing on the bars of a cage.

Misha was in desperate need of dental surgery. But he would need to be much healthier and stronger to cope with a prolonged period under anaesthetic.

The rescue team took Misha to the bear sanctuary in Urtsadzor, funded by IAR and managed by FPWC. There, he was put in quarantine and given a thorough veterinary check-up to assess his condition. The vet described him as “severely malnourished.”

Misha has since received specialist care to improve his health and prepare him for the rigours of a long and complex surgery.

The dental team comprised Paul Cassar, IAR Trustee and dentist from Chichester; Gerhard Putter, veterinary dental specialist based in Cambridge; Jonathan Cracknell, veterinary surgeon specialising in wildlife and anaesthetics, and Aurora Mateo, IAR trustee and veterinary dental specialist from Spain. Over the years, this group of experts has made numerous trips to IAR’s rescue centres and treated a whole range of wild animals, including lions, tigers, bears and orangutans.

Jonathan said, “The dental surgery was a great success. It was a complex surgery, and on closer inspection, poor Misha had even more problems with his teeth than had been anticipated. But the team did an amazing job, extracting seven teeth and performing root canal treatment on three others. We were finished in about five hours, leaving time to treat a second bear – Masha – whose surgery was quick and straightforward.”

Gerhard said, “Misha had multiple dental problems, but we were able to tackle them all. With Jonathan on anaesthetics and with Paul and Aurora, we had the perfect team, and even just hours after the surgery, we could see the improvement in Misha’s demeanour. And the following day, we’re told he was on his feet and eating apples with gusto!”

Alan Knight concluded, “This is not the first time we’ve carried out dental surgery on a bear in Armenia, and sadly, it won’t be the last. We believe there may still be as many as 50 caged bears in need of rescue – and living in terrible pain, just as Misha was.

“This year, we are building a new, bigger rescue centre for those bears. We rely entirely on public donations to fund this lifesaving work, and our supporters are always so generous.

“I know times are still tough for many of us, but anyone reading about our efforts to end the suffering of Misha and other bears who would like to support us can do so at: https://www.internationalanimalrescue.org/appeal/mishas-surgery-sa.”