Late February, Kansas State performed one of the first cataract surgeries on a gibbon, a type of ape, a 2-year-old named Booger.
Booger was born with congenital cataracts in her eyes, which prevented her from seeing.
“Booger is unique in that in my research and my understanding, she is the youngest gibbon I know to have cataract surgery,” Jessica Meekins, assistant professor in ophthalmology, said to the Manhattan Mercury. “The only other report I found was a gibbon of about five years old, and that was outside of the country.
Booger is owned by Dana Savorelli who works at the Monkey Island Rescue and Sanctuary in Greenwood, Missouri. There, he cares for over 250 animals including other gibbons and sloths. Savorelli thought that K-State was one of the best places to help Booger.
Savorelli also considered Missouri University for assistance, but MU could not accept, as they have a no primate rule due to health concerns.
Savorelli chose to bring Booger to K-State after watching James Carpenter, assistant professor in wildlife and zoological medicine, work. Savorelli said it took some time to get ready for Booger’s surgery, including the blood work, but the day finally came.
“My company manufactures equipment for handling exotic animals and Dr. Carpenter is pretty strong in the zoo world,” Savorelli said. “I have seen him over the years at the conventions and was pretty much a legend and K-State has a reputation of handling exotic animals.”
There were at least 15 people in the operating room and several more just outside the doors.
“There was not much risk, as any primate could go through the surgery,” Carpenter said.
Despite the difference in species, this operation had no problems dealing with the eyes, as most species have similar structure, according to the Mercury Manhattan.
The technique used was similar to that used during a human’s operation and took an hour on each eye. The surgeons made a small incision of about three to four millimeters in length to get the necessary instruments inside and break up the cataract within the eye. The operation was a success and Booger now has the equivalent to having farsightedness.
According to the Mercury, the success of the operation could lead the procedure to become common practice.
Booger can now see, and enjoys seeing and feeling everything with more clearly, Savorelli said.