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First-ever cataract surgery on orangutan

LOOKING TO MAKE HISTORY: Aman the orang utan has cataract on both his eyes. He will be getting the world's first cataract surgery on an orangutan today.

KUALA LUMPUR: The world’s first cataract surgery on an orangutan will be performed at the Matang Wildlife Centre in Sarawak today.
 
The orangutan, known as Aman, aged 19, has cataract on both eyes and the operation will be performed on both.
 
The male orangutan has two female offspring, Mamu, 3, and an unnamed one-month-old baby, living in the centre.
 
Aman has been suffering from decreasing vision since 2000. In March, animal ophthalmologist Dr Izak Venter was flown in from South Africa to examine it.
 
Dr S. Sivagurunathan of the Malaysian National Animal Welfare Foundation said the animal was found to have normal retinal function with mature cataract and a decision was made to perform the surgery. 
Dr Venter and anesthetist Dr Frik Stegman, also from South Africa, will perform the two-hour surgery assisted by Dr S. Amilan, a local veterinarian.
 
Dr Venter, in a report he submitted to the Matang Wildlife Centre, said surgical techniques for animals had progressed and the method to be used is called phacoemulsification.
 
"This is not laser treatment. During the procedure, a small incision is made in the eye, then the lens is opened and the cloudy contents are removed by a probe."
 
He said there were situations when a lens could be replaced and in such cases, the eye would remain longsighted and thus Aman might need more time to adapt before it could see better.
 
The animal’s vision would not be crystal clear, but it would be able to move about and identify objects in front of it.
 
"Some animals show improved sight within hours whilst others may take several days," said Dr Venter.
 
Dr Amilan said the surgical team was excited about the operation.
 
"It will be the world’s first cataract surgery on an orangutan and it is going to be performed on home territory. It will be a big achievement."
 
All costs for the surgery is covered by donations.
 
Dr Sivagurunathan said Aman was a charismatic animal and with its sight restored, it would be able to enjoy a normal life.
 
"His offspring have a real chance to be released back into the wild in his lifetime.
 
"Aman was rescued from a market in Sarawak in 1989 and kept as a pet for three months before being surrendered in April 1989 and placed at the Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre," he added.
 
Aman had two serious accidents at the centre. He bit an electric cable and had to have his tongue removed and its left index finger was bitten off by another orangutan in 2000.
 
Aman has lived at the Matang Wildlife Centre since December 2000.
 
This centre was opened on July 26, 1998 and has 179ha of land dedicated to the housing and possible release of animals rescued from the area.
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