AR-News: World's First Cataract Surgery Performed on Chimpanzee at
IDA Africa - Sight Restored
lydia at idausa.org
Wed Feb 4 12:43:48 EST 2004
For Immediate Release
Contact: Edmund Stone (503) 643-8302
February 4, 2004
World's First Cataract Surgery Performed on Chimpanzee
Sight restored to blind chimpanzee
Portland, Oregon - History was made in January 2004 when the world's
first cataract removal surgery was successfully performed on a
chimpanzee. The two-stage procedure took place far removed from modern
medical facilities, at the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center, in a
remote forest in Cameroon, West-Central Africa.
Jacky, a 40-year-old male chimpanzee, can now see clearly again after
degenerative cataracts robbed him in 2002 of vision in both eyes. In
Defense of Animals - Africa (IDA-Africa), a project of IDA, a
California-based animal advocacy organization, rescued Jacky in 1999
from a small cage where he had been living for 30 years. At the Rescue
Center, staff became aware of Jacky's failing eyesight when he was no
longer able to act as alpha male, a role he had assumed over a family of
The cataract-removal surgery was identical to that performed on humans.
It was carried out by medical ophthalmologist Dr. James Tidwell, a U.S.
Navy Commander who takes part in humanitarian efforts around the world.
He was assisted by Dr. Sheri Speede, a U.S. veterinarian and director of
the Rescue Center.
Reflecting on his journey half-way across the world, Dr. Tidwell said,
"Occasionally one is called upon to step beyond their comfort zone and
extend their skills in a new direction. Regardless of the outcome, the
voyager usually becomes a better person in the process. I was doubly
privileged to be able to do just that, but also to do it for a good
cause: restoring the sight of Jacky, the alpha male chimpanzee at the
Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center. In today's world, one of the major
challenges facing us all is to stop viewing differences and begin
viewing similarities. We must look beyond the perspective that the gift
of sight is the privilege of humans. This was an opportunity to share
current medical technology within similar species."
Added Speede, Certainly, a few of the most joyful moments in my life
came on that day after the successful surgery on Jacky's first eye, as I
watched him gaze in wonder at trees, birds, and my face as if he were
seeing it for the first time. And the little boy chimps who for months
had been stealing Jacky's food from under his nose got quite a surprise
Safety protocols would not permit administration of eye-drops after each
operation to control possible infection, so antibiotics were given to
Jacky in his milk. Back to his old self, Jacky is now enjoying life
with other resident chimpanzees, all who were rescued as orphans of the
illegal bushmeat trade and currently have a second chance at life in a
large forested enclosure at the IDA-Africa Chimpanzee Rescue Center in
Continued Tidwell, "It is my sincere hope that the knowledge of the
success of this type of procedure in chimpanzees will stimulate others
to participate, as well as to broaden the scope of further efforts to
benefit all non-human primates."
For additional information on IDA-Africa, pictures of the operation, or
for interviews with Dr. Sheri Speede, please contact Edmund Stone in the
USA at (503) 643-8302 or info at ida-africa.org.
# # #
Director of Communications
In Defense of Animals - DC Office
1629 Columbia Rd NW, Suite 326
Washington, DC 20009
lydia at idausa.org
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