It was a matter of life and death and the odds were 50/50 for the 18-year-old tiger Tomi, who was rescued by tiger Mirza. “On September 21, 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," says Hildegard Pirker, Head of the Animal Welfare Department at LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary.
With the drought in the region and increasing temperatures of Spring, more ticks than usual had presented themselves 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 amount. 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, he 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
Tiger Mirza was chosen as a blood donor because he is relatively young and the fact that he was, like Tomi, a Siberian tiger.
Mirza was born in the Netherlands at a Dutch rescue center. FOUR PAWS took over the center in 2013 and turned it into FELIDA Big Cat Centre. In May 2015, Mirza was transferred to LIONSROCK together with his sister, brothers and parents.
“The procedure is rarely performed and according to the vet, Tomi's survival rates were 50/50, as he could have turned down Mirza's blood. Under anesthesia, 4 liters of blood was drawn from tiger Mirza for the transfusion - He also underwent a quick general check-up and injections of vitamin boosting. Afterwards, he was returned to his enclosure and, as expected, Mirza made a quick recovery", says Pirker.
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.