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A healing touch

THE ASIAN AGE. | DYUTI BASU
Published : Jan 11, 2018, 12:38 am IST
Updated : Jan 11, 2018, 12:38 am IST

Veterinary doctor Dr Deepa Katyal, who specialises in exotic animals, nursed a sick lizard back to health.

Deepa with the lizard
 Deepa with the lizard

Electrocuted monkeys, injured snakes, hurt puppies and sick kittens — Dr Deepa Katyal has been known to cure them all and nurse them back to health. The veterinary doctor is one of the most skilled physicians for exotic animals in the city and often gets calls from the Forest Department.

Around two and a half months ago, the call came in from Thane regarding a lizard. Some hikers had found the creature and reported it to the forest department, who, in turn, called up the vet at her Chembur clinic. “When they first brought the lizard in, we did an X-ray and round out that she was carrying a lot of eggs. But she was too dehydrated and lacking in nutrients to deliver. So, we hydrated her, artificially fed her with a special variety of lizard food that I import from the US. We also had to give her a lot of calcium and proteins,” she recalls.

The recovery process was a slow one, and for a while, the vet had given up hope. “She would just lie there in the same place, not moving at all. Then slowly, as the medicines and supplements started working, she started moving around a little and delivering the eggs,” she says, adding that they were not out of choppy waters at this point. “There were some complications when she was delivering the eggs, since she was so weak. We had to do a rather complicated surgery. I only went through with the procedure instead of putting her down, since she had been responding so well.”

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It turned out to be a good call. After a lot of rest and proper care, the lizard, which Deepa sometimes calls Lizzie, was on the mend. “It took a couple of weeks before we were able to remove the sutures. But she fought her way back and is now quite stable. We started to feed her meat. You just have to place it in her mouth and she eats it. She’s not started eating on her own though. Once she does, we’ll think about rehabilitation,” says Deepa.

The vet, who got her mentoring under none other than the late Aussie “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin, laments that the rehabilitation conditions in India are quite dismal. “No one really cares about these animals and what happens to them after they get injured. Rehabilitation takes time and patience. With this lizard, I have decided to take it up myself, since I feel responsible for her,” she says.

Unlikely as it may seem, the vet and the lizard have formed quite a bond. Visitors to the clinic are often astounded to see her carrying Lizzie around in her arms. “Though the reptilian brain is still under study, I think they understand the sensation of touch well enough to know that these are the people who took care of her. She hasn’t tried to scratch me once. She has sharp claws and teeth but she simply cuddles up when I pick her up,” she smiles.

Tags: forest department, physicians, crocodile hunter, lizzie