Monkey see, monkey do: Sunset Zoo’s Mangalisa the Colobus monkey regains eyesight

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A Colobus monkey at Sunset Zoo was given the gift of sight after going blind from cataracts, thanks to veterinarians at Kansas State and the staff at Sunset Zoo.

Mangalisa is deaf and quickly became blind over a year ago. Melissa Kirkwood, marketing and development officer for Sunset Zoo, said Mangalisa’s trainer started to notice that she was running into objects and spending more time on the ground — odd for a Colobus monkey whose instincts are to spend the majority of its time in the trees.

Colobus monkeys are known for their black and white coats with long bushy tails. They are native to Africa and are the most arboreal (tree-living) of all African monkeys.

“We knew that something was not normal,” Kirkwood said. “Then we contacted K-State Vet services. We have a longstanding relationship. They determined that she had cataracts which are normal for humans as they age. For Mangalisa, it developed as she aged, but it developed very quickly, so it was almost immediate for her.”

K-State’s School of Veterinary Medicine then performed cataract surgery on Mangalisa. After that, she was put into quarantine to help with the healing process. Kirkwood said that Mangalisa’s trainer, Rob Chase, was instrumental in her care.

“He was amazing in her care and created somewhat of a little patient room for her,” Kirkwood said. “A room where she had a laying cot where she could see the other primates of her troop and they could see her. I know that when that separation occurred, the whole troop was concerned about why she was not there — that to us also helped ease her healing.”

Chase, primate keeper at Sunset Zoo, let Mangalisa out into the sun for the first time after being blind for two years.

“I didn’t get a whole lot done when she first came out,” Chase said. “I just came out there and watched her and took pictures and videos. Going from seeing her the way she was to where she is supposed to be, to what their natural instincts are, I can’t explain it. It’s incredible.”

Chase said the Colobus monkey is now “back to being Mangalisa.”

Kirkwood said she attributes Mangalisa’s success to Sunset Zoo’s hard work to care for their animals. The zoo also cares for Suzie, the oldest living chimpanzee in human care.

Visitors can see Mangalisa at Sunset Zoo in the Colobus monkey enclosure, open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

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Hi! My name is Eden Brockman, and I am a junior studying journalism and mass communications with focuses in entrepreneurship, film studies and leadership studies. I am a first-generation K-Stater from Overland Park, Kansas, and I write for the news and arts & culture desks. Beyond the Collegian, I am the communications intern at K-State's Education Abroad office and the vice president of Wildcat Watch, where I create video content for the K-State community. I am also the co-host of Breanna and Eden's show at Wildcat 91.9 FM at 11:00 a.m. on Fridays. I love animals, good concerts and Grand Teton National Park!