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12 Dec 2019, Edition - 1612, Thursday

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Coimbatore

How this doctor removed cancer growth in a cobra

Umaima Shafiq

Snake conservation its handling and protection was his passion. Today, snakes are being treated by him in his Sathyamangalam centre.

Dr. K Asokan the ex-director of the Coimbatore VOC zoological park has done many surgeries on injured snakes including cancer operations during his tenure from 2012 to 2014.

He tells The Covai Post, “At that time we conducted lots of awareness programmes on snake conservation, its handling and protection for many college students and volunteer groups. It was at that time that snake awareness increased in this district. People brought injured snakes to our zoo to be treated. Some snakes had eye problems, head injuries, fish bones lodged in their mouths and even cancer. The latter snake was a five year old cobra which had a swelling near its head. A cobra’s lifetime is usually 20 years. We needled that part similar to a human biopsy procedure and diagnosed it as subcutaneous cancer growth. Then we decided to remove it surgically.”

As snakes are cold blooded reptiles, Asokan used local anaesthesia. When the cobra was cut open, the subcutaneous tumour was found in pinkish colour. After removal it weighed 35 grams and was sent for laboratory testing. “We stitched up the cobra with catgut and kept it in our care for a fortnight. Cobras do not regain their body temperature after surgery, so we kept it in a drum and used a 40 watts bulb to maintain constant heat. We also gave it antibiotics mixed with its natural feed of eggs. When it recovered we released it into the forest,” said Asokan.

He claims that it was the first such surgery in India. “We got congratulatory letters from people like Walter Devaram, ex-DGP of Tamil Nadu police. The cobra survived because a healthy one will shed its skin at least five to six times every year. So the operated skin shed and it regained its health. After my retirement, nobody has done such surgeries and the zoo is not accepting rescued snakes from the public. Now they are bringing them to me in Sathyamangalam. We use gas anaesthesia with oxygen for such snake surgeries. We have readied our own operation theatre and equipment here,” he concluded.

He can be reached at 9443883164.

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