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Monday, October 18, 1999 Published at 13:24 GMT 14:24 UK

UK: Scotland

Bear with a sore back

The operation should provide the answer to Hercules' problems

One of the UK's best-known animal stars, Hercules the grizzly bear, is setting out on a crucial medical journey.

Alan Mackay reports from the Big Bear Ranch in Perthshire
Hercules, who has appeared in several Hollywood movies, is being lifted unconscious onto a forklift truck and transported to an Edinburgh clinic where he will undergo an exploratory operation.

The 25-year-old bear, who weighs half a ton, was partially paralysed in an accident three years ago while filming a television advert. He has been unable to use his back legs since.

Slow improvements

Hercules has had intensive water therapy in the swimming pool of his Perthshire home.

His owners, Andy and Maggie Robin, say they are baffled as to why he has not made more of an improvement.

Veterinary surgeons originally believed Hercules had damaged a disc. Initial therapy sessions helped him to make a partial recovery and at the end of 1997 Hercules was allowed to go into hibernation.

But when he woke the following spring Mr Robin found the animal star was shuffling around on his behind and could no longer get to his feet.

Now surgeon Colin Stead is to carry out an extensive examination - the first test of its kind ever carried out - at Edinburgh's Royal Dick Vet School.

Ready for surgery

Mr Robin said he was confident Mr Stead would find out what was causing Hercules' condition.

"Apart from the problems with his back legs, Hercules is looking so well, he is unbelievable.

"I have been making him do a mile a day in the swimming pool and we are giving him every chance. He is now very strong and ready for surgery.

He added: "I know it's a trauma but we have to try it. There might be something in there that can be fixed.

"They don't really know if they are going to find anything. I am not really nervous about what might happen because I really think he will come through it because he is superfit and so strong."

Hercules has earned a small fortune from his acting roles in Hollywood as well as appearances on television commercials and at events worldwide.

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