A rare blood transfusion performed by a four-member team of doctors at the Arignar Anna Zoological Park in Vandalur revived a 10-year-old female hyena on Thursday.

This was the first successful blood transfusion done for a wild species in an Indian zoo.

The team that performed the blood transfusion, zoo officials said, comprised Dr. R. Thirumurugan, Dr. Ranjit Sam Stanley, Dr. A. Pradeep and Dr. M. Chandrasekar. While the first three doctors are zoo vets, Dr. Chandrasekar is currently associate professor at the department of clinics of the Madras Veterinary College in Vepery.

“It was a risk we had to take to save the animal. Prior to conducting the blood transfusion, a lot of research was done by the team to ensure 100 per cent success and save the animal,” said a senior zoo official.

Zoo officials said the food intake of the female hyena, Kala, had reduced during the past almost two weeks. Every day, the hyena is given four kilograms of beef and two kg of chicken but the animal had consumed a total of hardly half-a-kilogram of food, they said. Subsequently, the animal had become weak, dull and inactive.

In spite of zoo vets administering antibiotics, the hyena’s health had deteriorated. A series of tests including sonography, ECG and x-ray was carried out and the team found that the haemoglobin level of the hyena was dangerously low. As against the required haemoglobin level of 20 per cent of PCV (Packed Cell Volume), Kala’s blood showed only a few percentage of PCV.

“Once we decided to go for a blood transfusion, finding the correct blood match was the biggest challenge as we have very few hyenas with us and there was little time to save the animal,” said a zoo vet.

Currently, the zoo has six hyenas, three males and three females. Initially, two hyenas were shortlisted as donors. A 12-year-old male hyena, Raju, was finally chosen, based on his strong fitness levels for many years.  After a couple of tests including cross (blood) matching and compatibility tests, 250 ml of blood was transfused from Raju at the veterinary clinic in the zoo.

Kala had been released in to the common enclosure and had re-gained her normal level of activity, zoo officials said.

Both Raju and Kala were born at the Vandalur zoo under captive-breeding programmes in 2001 and 2003, respectively. Of the 198 zoos in the country, Vandalur is one of the 12, including Nandakanan zoo in Orissa and Guwahati zoo in Assam, which have hyenas in captivity.