THE sole tigress at Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) has been diagnosed with skin cancer. Tigress Rebecca’s tumour samples are suggestive of melanoma, said a medical report from Tata Memorial hospital.
“The hospital has asked for more photographs of the growth to ascertain further course of treatment, most likely chemotherapy. Sadly, we have found more such tumours on her, since we last operated,” said SGNP veterinarian Dr Sanjiv Pinjarkar.
Rebecca will undergo chemotherapy at the SGNP hospital itself, like white tigress Renuka, who was also diagnosed with skin cancer at the park. “Unlike Renuka who is 13 when diagnosed, Rebecca is older and her chances of surviving chemo are slim, but we will still begin treatment as soon as Tata hospital gives their expert opinion,” Pinjarkar added.
According to Shailesh Deore, superintendent of the lion and tiger safari, white tigers because of their light skin are sensitive and susceptible to cancers. “Rebecca’s tumour grew to the size of a table tennis ball in just 15 days,” he said.
Rebecca, who came to the park from Aurangabad in 2011, had undergone an operation to remove a large tumour near her left eye just two weeks ago. The white tigress is over 18 years old and until a few months ago was part of the tiger safari at the national park along with white tiger Siddharth and six other regular tigers.
At present, only regular tigers are seen during the tiger safari at the national park and no lions as their enclosures are undergoing repairs.
Meanwhile, all animal at the national park are alternatively being fed chicken and carabeef, sourced from animal husbandry department’s Quality Control Laboratory at Goregaon. The Laboratory has supplied excess export samples brought for testing to the national park. Besides the lions and tigers, the SGNP has 24 captive leopards to feed. The animals’ diet has been hit hard by the ban on slaughter of bullocks and bulls in the state, compounded by the fact that the protesting beef dealers have halted the slaughter of even water buffaloes at Deonar abattoir, the main source of meat for SGNP’s captive wild animals.