San Diego Health professionals gathered to work with animal care specialists to save the eye of a 3-year-old gorilla at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Watch to learn more about it below!
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Video credit: Rumble
Safari Park employees noticed cloudiness in the left eye of Leslie, a western lowland gorilla. After the complete inspection, it was confirmed the lens had changed and the eye was shifting haphazardly.
The park’s veterinarians arranged a team of internal and external experts. They included ophthalmologists and anesthesiologists from UC San Diego Health, to make the park’s first-ever cataract surgery on a gorilla.
“As veterinarians, we are experts in our species but we are not necessarily specialists in all of the different fields of medicine,” said Dr. Meredith Clancy, a San Diego Zoo Safari Park associate veterinarian. “We rely heavily on the amazing community we have here in San Diego to help us out.”
The doctors gathered to work on Leslie at the San Diego Zoo Global’s Paul Harter Veterinary Medical Center. Veterinarians in khaki and UC San Diego Health medical team members in scrubs have given gorilla a pharmaceutical muscle blocker to prevent any movement.
Dr. Chris W. Heichel, cataract surgery specialist at UC San Diego Health’s Shilley Eye Institute, performed the surgery, his first on a gorilla. “Fortunately, the similarities between the anatomy of human and gorilla eyes are great enough to allow us to safely navigate the procedure without complication,” Heichel said.
“The remainder of the eye appeared to be in excellent health, indicating exceptional vision potential for the rest of Leslie’s life.” A cataract is a clouding of the clear lens behind the colored part of the eye, known as the iris, it is the normal aging process.
The Safari Park’s animal care team was worried about her 31-year-old mother, Kokamo, they were concerned about she might be upset about Leslie’s absence from the gorilla habitat during the procedure.
They chose to anesthetize Leslie and Kokamo at the same time and performed a routine health check on Kokamo, which included dental, cardiac and overall physical assessments. Kokamo’s checkup found that she is in good health.
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