Jaipur-based veterinary doctor Tapesh Mathur on the Krishna limb, a prosthetic aid he has designed to help animals with amputated legs walk again

Being a veterinary doctor and treating animals severely injured — mostly in road accidents — day in, day out, Jaipur-based Tapesh Mathur always wished he could help them survive, help them lead a normal life, give animal lovers hope when they pleaded with him to “do something.”

A year ago, he got an opportunity to give wings to this wish. The result is now for all to see, most strikingly in the bouncing steps of Krishna, a three-year-old calf which had to undergo amputation of a fore limb after a car hit it on a Jaipur street. Dr Mathur, posted at Hingonia Goshala managed by the Jaipur Municipal Corporation where Krishna was brought after the accident, successfully designed a prosthetic limb for it after two bouts of failure. He now says, “I wish to implant this limb for free and help all suffering animals live longer with comfort.” Excerpts from an email interview.

How did the idea come about?

The thought occurred to me about seven years ago when I was posted at the Government Veterinary Polyclinic, Jaipur. There, we amputated many animals for various reasons, road accidents being a major cause. Animal owners who would really care would often ask for an option to help them survive. I approached the rehabilitation centre of SMS Hospital, Jaipur, then for help but it expressed no hope for animals for artificial support for mobility. But I knew it isn’t impossible. When I got posted at Hingonia Goshala in Jaipur last year, I could work on it. What pushed me more was also because being at the goshala, I could see much more the sufferings of the animals than what I saw at the Polyclinic where the owners would take away the animals after amputation.

I approached some rehab centres and organisations working on the human foot and taught myself the human foot technology and how it can work on animals. For the first attempt, the automatic choice was the case of a two-year-old calf with fore limb severed and two cows with hind limb injured badly. I used a different material then. The animals were already weak because of injuries; they died.

This time round, we used HDPE material and some of the accessories used for the grip and comfort to hold the artificial limb in place. It worked! We called it Krishna limb after the name of the calf, the first success case. The fascinating part was that Krishna adapted to its new limb during the two-hour physiotherapy for 15 days at a stretch. Krishna’s excitement, how it ran like an overexcited kid finding its freedom finally, was overwhelming. It now uses the limb 10 to 12 hours at a stretch and relaxes in the night with the limb removed. It’s living like any other healthy animal with an assured longer life span and ready to be a part of the usual production cycle.

Can it fit other animals? What is its weight?

Several pet owners (mainly dog owners) and goshalas from different States have approached us. I was also invited to Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Animal Care Centre, Delhi, to explore how it can benefit its animals. There is no doubt that it can be used by any animal. We are working on it now. The only requirement is change in density and shape as per the type and body weight of the animal. As the material used is high in density and is light, it has the capacity to bear a weight of up to 300 kg.

What is its limitation?

Animals with amputation below the knee injury can only use it. It also requires further research for improved grip. Plus, I want to extent it to above the knee limbs.

What next?

We are trying to develop a mobile unit to reach out to more injured animals. The basic cost for a limb is Rs.2000. Some animal lovers have come forth to support the cause; the cost should not be a hurdle.

(The interested can contact Tapesh Mathur at tapeshmathur@yahoo.co.in)