Mumbai: Tough task on hand for SGNP officials as several big cats fall ill

  • Badri Chatterjee, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Mar 31, 2015 00:41 IST

Authorities at Sanjay Gandhi National Park are having a tough time, as several carnivores have fallen ill over the past few months. Recently, the only white tigress at the park, Rebecca, was diagnosed with skin cancer; but at 18 years, she is too old to undergo chemotherapy.

Rebecca has been temporarily removed from the park’s safari centre, one of its main attractions.

In 2009, another white tigress, Renuka, died after receiving chemotherapy for cancer.

In February, a four-year- old Royal Bengal Tigress, Puja, died after suffering from blood poisoning, since September 2014.

The SGNP’s rescue centre and safari are home to three white tigers, six royal Bengal tigers and 14 leopards. These animals have been brought in from different places in India. “We have been taking utmost care of our animals. We are also taking regular advice from experts from Bombay Veterinary College for complicated cases,” said Vikas Gupta, chief conservator of forest and director, SGNP.

Talking about the white tiger’s cancer diagnosis, SGNP veterinarian Sanjiv Pinjarkar said, “We sent Rebecca’s tumour samples to Tata Memorial hospital, where veterinarians suggested the presence of melanoma. White (albino) tigers are prone to cancer as their genes undergo alterations due to the two different colours, black and white. We are discussing whether she should undergo chemo, as she may not survive it because of her age.”

On March 8, Rebecca was detected with a large tumour near her left eye, which was operated and treated with antibiotics. After a secondary infection developed, another tumour was found and the samples sent to the hospital.

“The forest officials and vets are doing their best for the animals, but a lot of information about them is not in the public domain. There are other animal experts and veterinarians in the city whose involvement should be considered,” said Pawan Sharma, president, Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare.

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