Isle of Wight Zoo's Simi the tiger recovers well from keyhole surgery

Dan Forster of ‘The Mobile Vet’ based in the Isle of Wight was approached to spay Simi , the 11-year-old Indian/Siberian hybrid tiger, who was rescued from a travelling circus in Germany four years ago and was re-homed to the Isle of Wight zoo last year.


Simi had raised concerns with zoo vet Matt after she began exhibiting unpredictable behavior, which can be indicative of ovarian cysts.

Having worked with Dan on previous occasions, Matt was aware that The Mobile Vet has offered laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery for the last year. Knowing that it would be a better option to spay Simi using keyhole surgery than an old fashioned spay, he got in touch with Dan who agreed to perform the pioneering laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery.

‘My laparocopic instruments were not long enough to spay a tiger so I got in touch with Romain Pizzi who is a wildlife endosurgeon, and he agreed to come down from Scotland with his longer tools to help me perform the surgery’ explained Dan.

It transpired during the surgery that Simi did indeed have a cyst on her ovary, and during the operation the team used a robotic arm designed to direct a tiny camera inside Simi. This is believed to be the first time such a procedure has been carried out on a wild animal. The tiger had also experienced some mobility problems with her legs, so also underwent a spinal X-ray and a general health check.

The operation removed some of Simi’s reproductive organs, and although now unable to breed, Simi has made a full recovery.

The mobile vet has been performing laparoscopic ovariectomies in place of the traditional bitch spay for over a year and are the only veterinary surgery to offer this service on the Isle of Wight.

Laparoscopic surgery (also commonly known as keyhole surgery) is the gold standard for a wide range of operations in humans, but is still only rarely performed in animals. Just as in humans, the very small incisions mean a much faster recovery, less risk of post-operative infections, less risks of post-operative wound complications, and most importantly, significantly less pain than with open abdominal surgery.

The use of key hole surgery with cameras is not limited to bitch spays alone. It is also excellent for taking biopsies, minimally invasive exploratory surgery of the abdomen and cryptorchid castrations amongst others.