Mumbai: White tigress Rebecca clears first step in battle against cancer

The 18-year-old white tigress the only one at Sanjay Gandhi National Park is recovering steadily after undergoing an operation to remove her tumour as well as a chemotherapy session yesterday

The authorities heaved a sigh of relief yesterday after Sanjay Gandhi National Park’s only white tigress emerged from a successful surgery that was the first step in her battle against cancer. Despite initial concern that age would slow down her recovery, experts were pleased to note that she was responding well to the treatment.

Rebecca rests in her quarters after the surgery and chemotherapy yesterday
Rebecca rests in her quarters after the surgery and chemotherapy yesterday

Recently diagnosed with melanoma (a kind of skin cancer) in her eye, 18-year-old Rebecca underwent a two-hour surgery in which the doctors removed a tumour weighing 250 gm from her left eye. She had also been operated upon last month to remove another tumour near her eye, which was when the experts suspected that she might have cancer.

“Rebecca responded very well after her first operation. Hence, we took the risk of operating again. We will be very happy if she recovers, as she has been the pride of SGNP,” said Shailesh Deore, superintendent of the park’s lion and tiger safari, which Rebecca was part of until recently.

The operation began at 11.15 am, and after it was over, Rebecca also underwent a chemotherapy session that lasted about another hour. Her next session will take place after 21 days, after a blood test to gauge her improvement. She is currently also being administered antibiotics and supportive drugs to prevent further growth of the cancer.

A strong tigress
While she was kept fasting shortly before and after the procedure, she will now resume her regular diet of chicken, said the park’s in-house veterinarian, Dr Sanjiv B Pinjarkar. “The operation was successful and without any complication. We will keep her under observation for the next few weeks.

She is a strong tigress and is responding well to medication and diet. There will be no change in her diet; we will continue to feed her chicken,” he added. Experts said that rare as melanoma is, it is more common amongst humans and animals that have lighter skin that lacks melanin pigment. Being a white tigress, Rebecca was more susceptible to the condition.

About Rebecca
Rebecca was brought to SGNP from Aurangabad in 2011. Until a few months ago, the white tigress was part of the tiger safari at the national park along with white tiger Siddharth and six other tigers. On March 29, Rebecca was diagnosed with cancer and was separated from the others. She is currently sharing quarters with Siddharth as he is also aged.

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