Surgery helps Sunset Zoo monkey regain sight

Mangalisa enjoys her time in a tree at Sunset Zoo.
Mangalisa enjoys her time in a tree at Sunset Zoo.(Sunset Zoo)
Published: Mar. 18, 2022 at 1:44 PM CDT
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MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) - A monkey at the Sunset Zoo is acting like a kid again.

The zoo said Friday that their Colobus monkey Mangalisa underwent successful surgery to remove cataracts. The procedure was done by the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Sunset Zoo’s primate keeper Rob Chase says, before the surgery, Mangalisa, 27, was blind, and usually stayed crouched in a corner because she could not see to climb the trees.

Head keeper Savannah Brethauer said the behavior was concerning.

“They live in the trees,” Brethauer said. “That was one of our biggest concerns. Mangalisa stopped climbing.”  

Zoo staff tried to compensate for Mangalisa’s condition by keeping her food and water in the same place, and gently guiding her indoors and outdoors. However, her quality of life had become so low, they worried how long she would survive.

“We wanted to do something for her because she was healthy, and just because she is an older monkey doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve a chance,” Chase said.  

Sunset Zoo’s contracts with Kansas State University to provide comprehensive health care for its animals. The partnership allowed them to explore cataract surgery for Mangalisa.

K-State did preliminary tests and blood work to confirm the animal was in otherwise good health; then, in late January, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology Jessica Meekins performed the cataract surgery. Mangalisa returned to the zoo the same day, and gradually reintegrated with their other two monkeys, male Bobby and female Azizi.

“It was scary the first couple of days,” Chase said. “I would wave in front of the mesh door to the bedroom, and she would back up. She would still run into a wall on one side. It was almost like she was still blind in one eye.”

Within two weeks, however, the other eye also came around, and Chase let her out to enjoy a sunny day.

“I let her outside, and I can’t tell you how much my heart was beating,” he said. “She ran out and right up in the trees, which she hadn’t done in years.”

Sara Gardhouse, Assistant Professor of Exotic Animal Medicine at K-State, said their collaboration with Sunset Zoo gives faculty, interns, residents, students, and nurses hands-on experience with in caring for unusual animals. She said this case, specifically, show how veterinary medicine can be progressive in improving the lives of exotic animals.

“It was a very rewarding case for us, especially when we saw how successful it was,” she said.  

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