[monkeywire] Jacky becomes first chimp to receive cataract surgery

Carrie McLaren carrie at stayfreemagazine.org
Fri Feb 20 12:23:20 EST 2004

WILDLIFE NEWS	February 20, 2004
Cataract Surgery In Remote Jungle Restores Chimp's Sight
by Patricia Collier

Posted on February 20, 2004

Veterinary history was made in a remote jungle in Cameroon, Africa, 
in January, with the world's first cataract removal surgery on a 

The two-stage procedure was successfully performed on Jacky, a 
40-year-old male chimp, at IDA-Africa's Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue 
center in West-Central Africa.

Jacky lost his sight in both eyes in 2002 because of cataracts. 
Veterinarians said he can now see clearly again.

The chimpanzee had been rescued by In Defense of Animals - Africa 
(IDA-Africa) in 1999, after spending 30 years of his life confined in 
a small cage.

The cataract surgery, just like the kind performed on humans, was 
performed by medical ophthalmologist Dr. James Tidwell, a U.S. Navy 
Commander, and Dr. Sheri Speede, a U.S. veterinarian and director of 
the Rescue Center.

Dr. Tidwell said he was privileged to be able to help Jacky.

"In today's world, one of the major challenges facing us all is to 
stop viewing differences and begin viewing similarities," Tidwell 
said, "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."

Dr. Speede had enjoyed almost daily contact with Jacky since the 
chimp arrived at the center, so she was especially happy for him.

"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," said Dr. Speede.

"And the little boy chimps who for months had been stealing Jacky's 
food from under his nose got quite a surprise that day," she added.
Jacky is now back to normal and living peacefully with the other 
chimpanzees at the center. All the animals were rescued after being 
orphaned by poachers working in the illegal bushmeat trade, but now 
enjoy a quiet, safe life in a large forested enclosure at the center.

"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," Tidwell said.

The center has an Adopt-a-Chimpanzee Program through which Jacky and 
other chimps are available for sponsored adoption to help pay for 
food and medical care. Details are provided at IDA's Web site: 

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