A team of eye experts from UC San Diego Health removed a cloudy lens from the left eye of the gorilla, named Leslie, on Dec. 10 and replaced it with an artificial lens designed to provide her with clear vision for the rest of her life.
Chris Heichel, a cataract surgery specialist, said he’s performed hundreds of surgeries on humans but never 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,” said Heichel. “The remainder of the eye appeared to be in excellent health, indicating exceptional vision potential for the rest of Leslie’s life.”
Leslie was given a muscle blocker to keep her still on the operating table.
During her recovery, she will need antibiotics and steroids to prevent infections and to control inflammation. She will be monitored but is already back with other gorillas at the park’s Gorilla Forest. Her cataract is likely the result of an injury, the park said.
“Either from a fall while the youngster was practicing her climbing skills or from an overly rambunctious play session with other young gorillas in her troop,” it said.
Because of Leslie’s age, the park was concerned that her 31-year-old mother, Kokamo, would be upset about her absence. Both gorillas were anesthetized at the same time. Doctors used the time to perform a health check on the Kokamo, which included dental, cardiac and physical checks.