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Last Updated: Wednesday December 07 2005 14:07 GMT

Aching lion has unusual surgery

Bellamy the lion

An ageing lion who has problems walking has been injected with gold pellets to help fight his aches and pains.

Vets feared 13-year-old Bellamy could lose the ability to walk within weeks unless they did something quickly, so they decided on the unusual surgery.

Twenty-five golden pellets were put in muscles near his spine to to help his bones rub together more easily.

Now keepers at the zoo in Rome say the Asian lion is suffering less pain and should rejoin his mate Asha soon.

Bellamy has lived at Rome's Bioparco zoo since 2001, when he came to Italy from England with Asha.

There are about 300 Asian lions left in the world, and all the others live in a sanctuary in India.