It was back in 2016 when Burmese monks from the ThaBawa shelter rescued two moon bears, Nyan htoo (which means bright or clever in Burmese) and his brother, Kan htoo, from wildlife traffickers. But soon after, the monks noticed Nyan htoo’s excessively large tongue and contacted local vets to see if there was something wrong.
The tongue was the size of a banana but since then it has grown to disproportionate sizes and is now the size of a melon.
The gigantic tongue is so large and disproportional that the 18-month-old bear is unable to close its mouth.
Nyan htoo is forced to drag his large tongue on the ground as he walks and this only causes Nyan htoo to accumulate germs and bacteria from the ground as well as get cuts and scratches on his tongue.
Some speculate that the oversized tongue could be the result of a congenital disease but Nyan htoo’s mother does not have an enlarged tongue.
The magnified organ has made it impossible for Nyan htoo to roughhouse with his brother at the animal shelter in Burma also known as Myanmar.
Just last year, a team performed their first ever operation on Nyan htoo. Originally they were hesitant about amputating the whole organ since the bear was only four months old at the time and weighed ten pounds.
However, after the first procedure in 2016, the swelling didn’t go away and Nyan htoo’s condition didn’t exactly improve.
So Roman Pizzi and other vets from Wildlife Surgery International decided to visit Myanmar earlier this month to amputate the whole tongue which weighed about seven pounds.
The entire operation lasted about four hours and since then Nyan htoo has been recovering in the sanctuary and he’s been playing with his brother once again. Nyan has also started taking an interest in new foods he was previously unable to eat.
The cause of the tongue’s growth is still to be determined but some say it could be the result of elephantiasis which is a vector-transmitted parasite that causes limbs to swell up to abnormal sizes. But since his surgery, Nyan has only been getting better. ‘He’s never experienced a normal tongue before, so [using] that is a process he’ll have to learn.’