Arabella, one of the beautiful pride members at Panthera Africa Big Cat Sanctuary underwent a very successful cataract removal procedure in Cape Town on 16 November 2016. Panthera Africa is situated approximately 8 km from Stanford, one of the picturesque little towns in the Overberg,
When Arabella was about three months old, she became extremely ill due to a number of factors. She stayed in intensive care for three weeks and luckily pulled through. According to Dr Caldwell, a veterinary specialist from Old Chapel Vet Clinic in Pretoria, genetics contributed to her developing cataracts. Inbreeding is most likely the biggest factor, but also the fact that she was ill as a cub.
Like Panthera Africa’s slogan, In unity there is strength, the team took hands to ensure that Arabella’s vision will be restored. Sammy Butler, an animal communicator, has been working with Arabella and her companion, Raise, since Sunday explaining to them that they will be separated. She described the whole course of action to the two tigers. They were told that she will be moved, be able to see again and that she will feel relaxed during this journey. Sammy’s explaining made a huge difference to the Arabella’s behavior throughout this adventure, and was clearly seen in her calm and cooperative behavior.
Dr Caldwell felt it a better option to sedate and secure Arabella in her crate on Tuesday evening, rather than to sedate and reverse twice during the course of the day of the procedure, which is not recommended. At 17h30 Tuesday she was moved to the enrichment camp and she adapted smoothly to this move. She was successfully darted by Dr. Mark Walton from the Hermanus Vet Clinic and was fast asleep within ten minutes. She was given anti-inflammatories and put on a one liter saline drip to prepare her for the operation and to keep her hydrated. She was then moved into a crate with comfortable bedding and loaded onto the bakkie. The bakkie was parked and secured in the garage and she slept there peacefully throughout the night.
At dawn on 16 November, the founders Cathrine S. Nyquist and Lizaene Cornwall, left Panthera Africa on their journey with Arabella to the Panorama Vet Clinic in Cape Town, where the operation took place. Dr Mark Walton met them in Hermanus and made the journey with them to ensure everything went well. Arabella was perfectly calm the whole journey, and it was clear to Cat and Lizaene that Arabella knew what was going to happen.
At the Panorama Vet Clinic an eye scan was done by Dr. Anthony Goodhead, the vet surgeon from Cape Animal Eye Hospital, to assess the situation and to prepare for the operation. The current method for cataract removal is by a process called phacoemulsification and aspiration of the lens fragments. The specialist vet from Pretoria, Dr. Peter Caldwell checked Arabella’s vitals throughout the operation, keeping her stabilized.
The operation initially would have taken about 45 minutes for both eyes. Unfortunately the cataract on her one eye was extremely dense and hardened and took longer because it used a bit more expertise to remove safely. A corneal incision had to be extended to deliver the hard pieces that were not being fragmented by the ultrasound. It was removed successfully. The cataract on the second eye was softer and much easier to remove. In just under two and a half hours, the operation was successfully completed. Dr. Caldwell was very happy with all her vitals throughout the operation. After the procedure Arabella was given vitamins and antibiotics and the last check was done before she was taken to her crate to be woken up.
Cat, Lizaene and Dr Mark Walton set off on the journey back home to Panthera Africa and arrived at 14h00. Preparation work had already been done by staff and volunteers to make sure the enrichment camp was safe. Arabella remains in the enrichment camp alone for the next fourteen days, so that she can be monitored properly. Dr. Anthony explained her aftercare, as it is essential to ensure the continuous success of the operation. Arabella is on a ten day antibiotics course and every third day she must receive anti-inflammatories. Her eyes must be monitored very closely for any signs of cloudiness or redness.
When Arabella was released back into her enclosure camp on arrival, she growled and leapt out of her crate. She immediately swiped at the bakkie’s open tailgate, the first sign that she had clearer vision. The team members were ecstatic! At first, Arabella paced up and down, able to see for the first time in four years! She explored her camp and then took rest on her platform for the rest of the afternoon!
On Thursday morning she was monitored again and it was apparent that she was noticing things around her and very aware of her surroundings.
The unity of all the people caring for her daily, the excellent expertise of the medical staff that assisted and prayers and love from all corners of the world contributed to this operation being a huge success and restoring this beautiful feline’s sight. Cat and Lizaene would also like to give a specially thanks to all the donors whom gave so generously and made this miracle happen!