Our interest in Clavarial Hyperostosis in captive lions (Panthera leo) began in 1998, when we first encountered a 5-months old lion cub with severe whole body ataxia, which deteriorated and eventually died, without us being able to help. (2). When a similar situation occurred once more in the same zoological garden , 10 years later, we had already suspected what the 14-month old male lion suffers from a bone malformation which compresses his cerebellum and spinal cord, and so we knew what needed to be done.
After confirming the diagnosis, using a head CT and ruling out other possible causes of his illness, we started treating the lion with excessive amounts of vitamin A supplementation, based on the previously reported association between this disease and vitamin A deficiency. When no improvement was noticed, 2 weeks later, we took the lion to surgery, during which we decompressed the caudal fossa and released the pressure over the spinal cord at the level of the foramen magnum. This surgery was a success. The lion improved dramatically and was back to normal within a month (3).
Following the publication of the surgery, first by popular media and later on by scientific publication, we began receiving e-mails from different parts of the world, from veterinarians which sought advice regarding lions that possibly suffer from the same disease. Realizing that this disease, although known to occur in captive lions for decades, is still a common cause of neurological dysfunction and death of young lions and cubs in captivity, we decided to look into the many questions left unanswered along the years.
Our aim is to establish a way to achieve a definitive diagnosis for this disease in a living lion, describe the optimal treatment protocol for these lions, and reveal the underlying cause and possible genetic predisposing factor which in turn will enable us prevent this disease occurring in the future.
Along the years we have collaborated with researches from different institutions around the world who see the importance of this work. Among them are:
Prof. Haruki Senoo, Department of Cell Biology and Morphology, Akita University Graduate School of Medicine, Akita, Japan
Dr. Joseph Saragusty, Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, Germany
Dr. Stephanie L., McCain, Birmingham Zoo, Birmingham AL, USA
Dr. Yamaguchi Nobuyuki, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Qatar University, Doha, Qatar
Dr. Ross Barnett, University of Copenhagen, Centre for Geo-Genetics, Geologic Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark
Dr. Gabriela Galateanu, Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, Germany.