Rare blood transfusion attempted on tiger cub

NEW DELHI (AP) - November 17, 2008

The female cub received the emergency treatment late Sunday after blood taken from captive adults was airlifted to the zoo where the cub is being cared for, said Bimal Majumdar, the chief wildlife officer in the region. He said it was the first time a transfusion had been given to a tiger in India.

The cub, which doctors named Juhi after a fragrant white flower native to India, was still in serious condition Monday at the zoo in the city of Nagpur, some 530 miles (850 kilometers) southeast of New Delhi, he said.

India's wild tiger population has plummeted to just some 1,500 - down from about 3,600 six years ago and an estimated 100,000 a century ago. Shrinking habitats have brought them into conflict with farmers and poachers have killed them for their pelts and body parts, which are highly prized in traditional Chinese medicine.

Juhi and her sister were rescued two weeks ago from villagers who tried to kill them, fearing they would go after their children and cattle. The cubs also appear to have been abandoned by their mother.

"The cubs were in bad shape at the time they were rescued. They were starving," said Majumdar. "The villagers had also beaten them with sticks so they were injured as well."

While the other cub Jai, or Victory, responded well after being brought to the zoo, Juhi's condition deteriorated.

On Sunday, veterinarians treating the cat discovered that her hemoglobin levels had dropped to a dangerously low level and decided the only way to save her was to carry out a blood transfusion.

They sent a request to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai, where doctors tranquilized two healthy adult tigers and drew three-fourths of a pint (350 milliliters) of blood from each of them. Four hours later the blood reached Nagpur, said Vinery Jangle, the park's head veterinarian.

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