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Saturday, 6 July, 2002, 22:50 GMT 23:50 UK
Canada zoo gives elephant steel tusks
Spike with his capped tusks
Suit you, Sir! Spike sports his new "mouth jewellery"
A 20-year-old elephant at Calgary Zoo has had his tusks fitted with stainless-steel caps.

The elephant, called Spike, had cracked his left tusk while playing with tyres.


He looks pretty incredible

Zoo spokeswoman
About one-third of the tusk broke off and there was a split almost up to the jawline.

If the crack had widened and infection had got to the dental nerve, the Asian elephant would have been in great pain - possibly even leading to death - so it was decided to take action.

Local organisations and businesses joined in to help the zoo protect Spike.

The 14-kilogram (31-pound) prosthetics were designed using computer-generated models and made by instructors at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, at a donated cost estimated at around $8,450.

The tusk-caps were made of stainless steel donated by a Calgary firm, Corus Steel.

Snoring

When they were ready, vets sedated Spike but did not fully anaesthetise him for the three-hour operation.

As he slept standing up, the caps were gently hammered onto tusks which had been filed down, and fixed with an adhesive.

Though only the left tusk was damaged, his handlers decided both should be capped to keep the 5.5-tonne (12,000-pound) mammal balanced.

One of his handlers, Les O'Brien told the Calgary Herald that Spike was not bothered by the operation.

"We could actually hear him snoring. He was that far gone," he said.

Zoo spokeswoman Trisha Exton Parder added that Spike now had "mouth jewellery".

"He looks pretty incredible," she said.

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