Surgeon to gift artificial limb to tiger with amputated paw

In what could be a first anywhere in the world, a top orthopaedic surgeon and leading veterinary doctors of Maharashtra Animal and Fisheries Science University (MAFSU) have come together to implant a prosthetic limb on a male tiger whose paw was amputated in 2012 after it got caught in a steel trap laid by poachers outside Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve.

“The procedure has been done for dogs and elephants around the world but not for tigers,” said orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Sushrut Babhulkar, who “adopted” the eight-year-old tiger, Sahebrao, currently living at the Gorewada Rescue Centre in the city.

Pained to see the limping big cat, which weighs 200kg and is perhaps the largest tiger in the country, Dr. Babhulkar said he would procure an artificial limb from AO Foundation in Germany, which has expertise in fixing fractures of humans and animals.

“I’ll talk to AO and ensure Sahebrao starts walking gracefully. He is the pride of the region,” said the doctor said.

Sahebrao, then two years old, and his male sibling were caught in the poachers’ trap. While the sibling died, Sahebrao was rescued and treated for an injured front left paw.

The tiger was later shifted to city’s Maharajbagh zoo on December 12, 2012 and on June 1, 2016 to Gorewada. Sahebrao was adopted by Dr Babhulkar under a scheme for animals launched by the FDCM last year.

Dr Babhulkar also discussed the issue of prosthesis with ex-associate dean of Nagpur Veterinary College Dr N P Dakshinkar, senior wildlife vets Dr Vinod Dhoot, Dr Gautam Bhojne, and Dr Shirish Upadhye, who had played key roles in saving Sahebrao from jaws of death.

So, how does Dr Babhulkar plan to go about it? “First we will evaluate the painful neuroma of Sahebrao by conducting clinical tests. Treating this neuroma will free the tiger of pain after which we will go for silicon prosthesis, which is designed to give a natural look and animal cannot remove it.

It will also be free from infections post fitting. It will build confidence in animal about natural walking.” “My observation is that Sahebrao is not irritated to see people but his poor ability is more due to painful neuroma, treatment of which will be our priority first. I will also arrange for a portable x-ray at the spot and treat the animal and ensure it undergoes minimum stress,” said Dr Babhulkar. (Times of India)

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