Lifesaving procedure performed on tiger at LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary

It was a matter of life and death and the odds were 50/50 for the 18-year-old tiger Tomi, which calls LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary home.


“On 21 September Tomi, who arrived in South Africa in 2013, stopped eating and we informed our veterinarian who came to LIONSROCK for initial treatment. He didn’t respond to the treatment,” says Hildegard Pirker, head of the animal welfare department.

With the drought in the region and increasing temperatures of Spring, more ticks have presented themselves than usual for this time of the year.

“A healthy big cat can usually tolerate ticks, and the big cats at LIONSROCK are treated when we observe that they have more than the tolerable ticks. The high tick burden in Tomi’s case increased rapidly and caused anaemia,” says Pirker.

Since his arrival at LIONSROCK, Tomi has undergone several health checks and procedures, including dental treatment. However, Tomi developed a range of health problems due to his former keeping conditions which entailed very small concrete cages (60m²), bare and cold concrete rooms (20m²), and suffering from severe malnutrition.

After the initial treatment Tomi needed to produce new blood cells on his own, but due to his age and chronic condition his immune system was too weak to manage.

A blood transfusion was his only chance.

"The procedure is rarely performed and, according to the vet, Tomi's chances of survival were 50/50 because he could have turned down Mirza's blood."

Hildegard Pirker
Head of Animal Welfare Department at LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary

Tiger Mirza as blood donor

“As this is a very delicate and rarely performed procedure, the chances according to the vet were 50/50 for Tomi as he could have rejected the blood. Under anaesthesia, 4 litres of blood was taken from tiger Mirza for the transfusion – he also underwent a quick general check and received vitamin boosting injections. He was brought back to his enclosure and as expected, Mirza recovered quickly. He was chosen as the donor, because of his youth and also being a Siberian tiger as Tomi,” says Pirker.

Mirza, along with his entire family who were rescued from the Netherlands, arrived at LIONSROCK in May 2015.

Pirker concluded: “Tomi is well on his way of recovery. He is eating well and taking the necessary medication and is gaining back his strength day by day.”

And good news: Tomi made it! "Tomi is well on his way of recovery. He is eating well, taking the necessary medication and is gaining back his strength day by day", says Pirker.



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