Guidelines: Capture, assessment & first aid
In general, dealing with a severely injured or sick tiger in the wild requires anaesthesia, immediate first aid measures such as the treatment of shock and stabilising fractures, followed by transportation to a rehabilitation facility for more comprehensive investigation and medical or surgical interventions.
- Taking an injured or sick wild tiger into captivity should only be done after considering all other options.
- Most tigers (>10kgs) will need to be anaesthetised to allow examination and removal from the wild. Comprehensive details of anaesthesia in tigers is provided in Field Anaesthesia.
- Assessment of a tiger’s condition prior to anaesthesia can be difficult but is important in selection of anaesthetic drugs and doses. For example, a severely shocked animal will require lower doses of most drugs.
- Evaluation prior to removal from wild is very important. Determining whether injuries are insignificant or can be treated simply is done at this stage. In other words, it is at this point when the important question “Can the tiger be treated with first aid and released immediately?” is answered.
- A medically equipped vehicle fitted with a simple clinic and a secure section for a crate is invaluable in providing first aid at the site of capture and transport to a rehabilitation facility under controllable conditions. Such a vehicle has been developed at the Alexeevka tiger rehabilitation facility in the Russian Far East. However, road and field conditions in tropical countries may exclude this option.
- If such a vehicle is not available as will perhaps usually be the case, it is important that the team attending the tiger is adequately equipped to examine and provide first aid.
- If the tiger is stable under the anaesthetic, a clinical examination should be carried out to assess its problem and decide on first aid measures. This should ideally be conducted by an experienced wildlife vet. Details of examination technique are provided in Clinical examination & basic diagnostic procedures.
- In extreme environmental conditions, examination and first aid need to be conducted efficiently and quickly to avoid further deterioration of the animal’s condition.
- A tiger’s survival will often depend on the effectiveness of the first aid given at the point of capture.
- The most likely clinical problems will include: Dehydration, shock, exhaustion, wounds inflicted by other tigers or large carnivores, gunshot wounds, snare injuries, haemorrhage, fractured bones & teeth, infectious diseases, hyperthermia, hypothermia and frost bite. In the case of orphaned cubs, exhaustion and dehydration are common.
- Emergency first aid is required in all such cases, and details of treatments can be found in Treatment of common problems and simple injuries. Rescuers should be familiar with these procedures, or at least have relevant information to hand in the form of a field manual.
- Where legally and ethically acceptable, in the case of a tiger that is so badly injured that there is no prospect of return to the wild or a reasonable life in captivity, euthanasia may be considered. A tiger with a fractured spine would be an example.