Two bears and a puma healed with a fish-skin bandage

Credits: California Department of Fish and Wildlife

A treatment made from the skin of the tilapia fish recently allowed carers to heal wounds on two brown bears and a puma. The animals had been the victims of an enormous fire that ravaged California in December.

In December 2017, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) saved these three animals, seriously injured with third degree burns, and tried to treat their injuries with a “home made” remedy. Next, the vets added an experimental treatment, a bandage made from sterilised tilapia skin, a fish that is often eaten as a popular dish in South America.

The treatment worked so well that the authorities we able to release the two brown bears and the puma back into nature on the 18th January, according to the CDFW. “We really hope that these new treatments will accelerate healing and give the bears a better chance of survival”, says Deana Clifford, an experienced CDFW vet, in a recent statement.

A rescued bear rests after being treated by the Californian vets
Credits: California Department of Fish and Wildlife

The fire, known as the Thomas Fire, ravaged California for more than a month, lasting from the 4th December 2017 to the 12th January 2018. In total, it covered over 1,000 kilometers squared, and over 100,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes. It cost over 177 million dollars in firefighting measures. It is the biggest fire California has known in modern history.

Tilapia skin is already used by doctors in Brazil, who use the treatment for burn victims. This is the first time it has been tried on animals. The skin of this fish appears to have nothing but advantages. In fact, it is highly resistant, it can retain moisture and transfer collagen -a protein essential to the skin, especially during the healing process. What’s more, it is natural and economical, the skin being a by-product of fishing and trading. Finally, its application can reduce pain while accelerating tissue regrowth.