Friday, January 09, 2004

Two Unrelated News Items

I haven't smoked since college, but if I hadn't quit before, I guess I would be forced to now: North Korean strongman Kim Jong-Il (김정일) is telling people it's time to stop smoking. From the BBC: "Reports in the South Korean media said Kim recently singled out smokers as one of the 'three main fools of the 21st century,' along with those who are ignorant about computers and music."

And for something completely different, The Bangkok Post had an article a few days ago about Morakot (มรกต), an 80-year-old toothless elephant cow at the Chang Phuan Kaeo elephant ground in Thailand, getting a set of dentures. They are believed to be the first set of dentures ever made for an elephant, although replacement tusks have been made before.
The U-shaped denture, 15 cm wide and 15 cm long, is made of stainless steel, silicone and plastic. Veterinarian Somsak Jitniyom said that without teeth Morakot could not chew her food. She was dependent on injected saline solution, vitamins and antibiotics.

The ailing elephant had collapsed four times and finally been fitted with a special support -- chains covered with soft hosepipe suspended from a tree. On Monday, Morakot was sedated and fitted with her new teeth, Mr Somsak said. Her dung would be watched to see if she was now able to actually chew her food.
Elephants have only six teeth in place at a time, the two tusks (which don't always develop in Asian elephants) and four molars. As the elephant ages, these molars wear away and a reserve set moves into place from behind the replaced set. They go through six sets of molars, the last of which is lost some time around age 65. After that, a seventh set of molars appears in about 10% of older aged elephants, but usually the loss of the last molars means the elephant will have trouble eating ... unless Somsak's dentures prove effective.

And then there are totally unrelated stories that turn up when you Google "elephant dentures," like Australian Antarctic Division (ANARE) medical officer Stefan Csordas improvising three replacement teeth for the station chef's dentures from elephant seal tusks. Like Morakot, the make-do solution allowed the chef to chew his food and he ended up using the elephant seal tusk teeth after returning from Antarctica.

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