Gorilla out of the mist

Leslie, a young western lowland gorilla, has joined the ranks of only a handful of apes ever to successfully undergo cataract surgery.  

San Diego Zoo animal specialists became concerned about cloudiness in Leslie’s left eye. Closer inspection confirmed that the lens had changed and the left eye was shifting haphazardly, prompting Leslie to favour use of her right eye. 

Given Leslie’s young age and early developmental stage, zoo veterinarians organised a team of internal and external experts, including UC San Diego Health anaesthesiologists and an ophthalmology team, led by cataract surgery specialist Dr Chris Heichel, to perform the zoo’s first-ever cataract surgery on a gorilla.  

Dr Heichel said although he has performed thousands of eye surgeries on humans, from one day to 105 years old, this was his first surgery 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,” he said. “The remainder of the eye appeared to be in excellent health, indicating exceptional vision potential for the rest of Leslie’s life.” 

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