Meeting my first Tiger! (Day 633)

Tiger immobilisation and anaesthesia

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Spikes World Wild Things

Somedays are amazing and today was certainly right up there in the best days of my life! I got to do something that very few people do and survive, I got on the wrong side of the fence of a tiger enclosure at the zoo…

Inside the fence of the tigers enclosureOk ok, so it was planned but that doesn’t make it any less awesome. Today I got invited to join a training workshop on wild animal immobilization for veterinary emergency response here in Slovakia. The aim of the training is to equip vets to deal with emergency situations with large and dangerous animals, and theres no better preparation than practice.

The local zoo supports this, and will try to schedule elective procedures so that the training vets can run the anaesthesia whilst the procedure is carried out. Today we were supposed to see 3 patients, however because of the high temperature the risks for complications were extremely high so it was decided that only the tiger would have his procedure today. This tiger was rescued from a private owner in the Czech Republic around 7-8 years ago, and so there has been discussion around whether or not it is a hybrid (a mix of two species) or what the lineage is so to determine whether it is genetically suitable for breeding samples were needed for DNA analysis.

When it comes to taking samples from animals it is always important to consider the safety of both the animal and the person collecting the sample. In this case as the tiger has not been trained, has big sharp claws and very strong mouth muscles with massive teeth the only way to do it is through anesthetizing the tiger. Now as it was in the zoo there is a back house that is not open to the public which allows the tiger to be contained and anesthetized with either a dart gun, or in this a case a blow pipe because the distance allowed this.

Preparing to dart the tigerI have written about distance immobilization in the past (read it here) and today like then we used special forms of the anaesthetic drugs which give a high concentration (action) for a small amount of the liquid. So to reduce the risk of accidents the total drug amount was spread out over two darts, one of these darts did not work initially so another dart was prepared and fired – something I learnt here is that tigers will hiss at vets just like small cats.

Darting the tiger insideOnce the tiger was very fast asleep it was moved outside where its head was covered both to protect the eyes and to reduce any stimulation. A pulse oximeter was attached to the tongue to measure the amount of oxygen in the blood and the sample collection took place.

Anaesthetised tiger moved outside and monitoredAfter the samples were collected the tiger was moved back inside, leaving just enough time to grab a photo with my first ever tiger and today’s hero zoo vet Dr Sos! Hopefully someone I will be working with (and learning a lot from) again!!!

Tiger immobilisation and anaesthesiaCheck out the video from the entire day….

A afternoon of chemical immobilisation… (Day 389)

Blow dart wild animal immobilisation vet student

Today’s Diary Entry Sponsored by Supreme Pet Foods

So this afternoon I was invited out by a doctor to join in on some distance anaesthesia, in other words darting some animals. Now with my goal of working with wildlife this was an opportunity I just could not pass up and so jumped straight into it. Today the doctor had been asked to assist with the transport of some bulls, and two cows who were apparently too dangerous to move without sedation.

Now this was also a new one for me, as bull’s are no longer the most common animal to come across in the UK with the advent of artificial insemination. They generally have a bad reputation and are classed as dangerous animals to keep on a farm with high insurance costs etc. I was a little unsure when the doctor just went walking across the field like it was a stroll in the park, just with 4 bulls in it. Now I know that it is a common misconception that bulls go for the colour red, however this is not true and instead it is the movement that attracts the attention of the bull. Praying this was true I set off across the field after the doctor to dart the first bull.

Blow dart wild animal immobilisation vet student

Something I absolutely love about studying here in Slovakia is how in order to keep things affordable doctors improvise otherwise expensive items. Today we used a blow pipe with darts, now the blow pipe itself with a complete kit cost just 50 euros, however it comes with limited darts so the doctor actually made his own darts to be used with it as well.

So probably the most important part of distance anaesthesia is the weight of the dart, so to reduce the weight of the dart its important to try to use really high concentration drugs. Today we used a specially imported drug version that is used in zoo’s, with xylazine at 100mg/ml instead of the normal 20mg/ml which is 5 times more powerful for the same amount (and same weight). The sedation worked really well as did the homemade darts, something I’ve learnt today that I can apply anywhere with a scalpel blade and a little glue.

When sedating cows and bulls it is also important that they either are in sternal recumbancy or on their right side to protect the rumen which lays on the left side of the body.

Today we worked with a team of 10 men to move the 400kg+ animals once they were sedated, and it all went without a hitch… Well until the last one when the first two were waking up and trying to escape. I got taught how to tie the legs in rodeo style which was pretty cool and something that I’ve tucked away for if I ever need it in future.