Gorilla at San Diego zoo treated for cataract: See the photos

A 3-year-old lowland gorilla who lives at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park underwent eye surgery to remove a cataract last month, the zoo announced Monday.

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.

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In this photo provide by San Diego Zoo Global, Chris W. Heichel, MD, a cataract surgery specialist at Shiley Eye Institute at UC San Diego Health, and his team examine Leslie, a western lowland gorilla, in a machine at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Paul Harter Veterinary Medical Center in San Diego. (Ken Bohn/San Diego Zoo Global via AP)

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.

 A cataract was removed on Dec. 10 from the left eye of the 3-year-old western lowland gorilla who lives at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, the park announced Monday. (Ken Bohn/San Diego Zoo Global via AP)

 A cataract was removed on Dec. 10 from the left eye of the 3-year-old western lowland gorilla who lives at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, the park announced Monday. (Ken Bohn/San Diego Zoo Global via AP)

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.

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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.

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