BERLIN - A tiger in Germany has become the world's first to be given an artificial hip after a three-hour-operation by a team of vets that she only just survived, Leipzig University said on Thursday.
Girl, as the Malayan tiger at Halle Zoo in eastern Germany is known, had been in visible pain for close to a year because of problems in her right hip joint, the university said.
"Malayan tigers are one of the world's most endangered species, with only around 500 estimated to be living in the wild. This was another reason to operate on Girl," a statement said.
The ferocious feline patient, eight, was not that long in the tooth either, with a life expectancy of 20.
During the operation by five specialists, Girl's heart came close to stopping, however, but anaesthetist Michaele Alef was able to save her.
Girl is now recovering in a separate enclosure back in Halle Zoo, and once a six-week danger period when the new hip could dislocate is over, there is every chance that it will last her the rest of her life.
"We are happy," said Peter Boettcher, another member of the team that also included Italian Aldo Vezzoni, a specialist with a wealth of experience fitting artificial hips in dogs, who worked for free.
Artificial hips of the kind now in Girl were first developed by professor Pierre Montavon from the University of Zurich with Swiss firm Kyon, and contain titanium for better performance and durability.
They were first used only in dogs but in recent years have also been implanted in humans. Girl's however was free of charge.
Image (not Girl): Rennett Stowe / via Flickr