Nagpur tiger to get artificial limb, a first-ever prosthesis for a big cat

A 40-minute surgery was performed on Sahebrao, the nine-year-old male tiger, by a team of vets from Wildlife Research & Training Centre led by its director Dr Shirish Upadhye.
For representational purposes (Photo | AP)
For representational purposes (Photo | AP)

MUMBAI: If everything goes smooth over next month, Sahebrao, the nine-year-old male tiger at the Gorewada Rescue Centre at Nagpur, will get an artificial limb. This will be the first-ever prosthesis for a tiger in the world. 

A 40-minute surgery was performed on Sahebrao by a team of vets from Wildlife Research & Training Centre (WRTC) led by its director Dr Shirish Upadhye, Goutam Bhojne, and Dr Vinod Dhoot. Nagpur based Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Sushrut Babhulkar, who has adopted Sahebrao and came up with the idea of such a surgery; Dr Peter Giannoudis from University of Leeds, United Kingdom; Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra (FDCM) managing director N Rambabu, PCCF (wildlife) NH Kakodkar, divisional manager Nandkishor Kale and others were present when the surgery was performed.

“We operated upon Sahebrao for neuroma, and took the measurement for a prosthesis, which will be fitted after 6 weeks, the time taken to recover from this surgery,” said Dr Upadhye.

Sahebrao was rescued from a poacher’s trap in Gondmohadi village in Chandrapur district in 2012 and had been at the Wildlife Rescue Centre in Nagpur’s Gorewada Zoo since then. Due to injuries of the trap Sahebrao had developed gangrene and a part of his injured leg had to be amputated. For the last six years, Sahebrao has been limping. The pain aggravated in the last few months so much so that it used to cry out with every step it put forward.

Dr Babhulkar said, “The surgery will give 99% relief from pain to the tiger, and fitting artificial limb is the next step.”

The thought of artificial limb for Sahebrao first came to Dr Bahulkar’s mind in the month of February. He then started speaking to members of the orthopaedic fraternity. While they started with radiological studies on one hand Dr Bahulkar got in touch with the international experts on the topic and subsequently, University of Leeds became a partner in the project.

Plans are afoot to procure the artificial limb after discussions with experts from IIT Mumbai, and AO Foundation, Germany, which has expertise in fracture fixation of humans and animals.

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