You’ve likely heard of turtles receiving 3D-printed shells and elephants receiving prosthetic limbs, but have you ever heard of a tiger receiving a faux paw? Exactly this occurred in India earlier this month. The one-of-a-kind operation took place to provide relief for 7-year-old Sahebrao. In 2012, the big cat was rescued from a poacher’s trap. Unfortunately, his front right leg never recovered.
After being rescued from the poacher’s trap in 2012, the big cat went on to live at the Gorewada Rescue Centre in Nagpur. Soon after, Sahebrao developed gangrene, resulting in a part of his injured front leg having to be amputated. For the past six years, he has been limping in increasing pain. This year, Sahebrao began crying out with every step.
In early October, Sahebrao — approximately 7 or 9 years old — underwent a 40-minute operation to outfit his front right leg with an artificial limb. Within the next few weeks, he will be the first big cat ever to be fitted with a prosthetic.
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Sahebrao was adopted by Sushrut Babhulkar, a Nagpur-based orthopaedic surgeon. For some time, the physician has been investigating the possibility of outfitting the big cat with an artificial limb. For the one-of-a-kind procedure, he teamed up with several experts, including Dr. Peter Giannoudis from the University of Leeds in the UK. Prof. Giannoudis, who specializes in fractures and bone regeneration, led the team.
According to Dr. Babhulkar, “The surgery will give 99% relief from pain to the tiger, and fitting artificial limb is the next step.” He told the Indian Express newspaper, “I wish to see him walk normally, like a human being getting a prosthetic leg, for the rest of his life.”
The artificial limb is being created in consultation from IIT Mumbai, and AO Foundation, Germany, which has expertise in fracture fixation of both humans and animals.
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