K-State veterinarians gave this blind baby gibbon her sight

Published: Feb. 27, 2017 at 5:01 PM CST
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An ape born blind can now see - thanks to a rare procedure performed by K-State veterinarians.

At two-and-a-half years-old, Booger moves at lightning speed and she manages to do it all by sight and smell. Because she has cataracts, young Booger can't see.

Dana Savorelli cares for Booger and other Gibbon apes at Monkey Island in Greenwood, Missouri. She says Booger has been blind since the ape was a baby.

"She had gone beyond having a complete cataract to the point where her body was actually starting to react to the cataract," Veterinary Ophthalmologist Dr. Jessica Meekins explained.

Meekins ended up performing a procedure almost identical to what humans undergo - and 41 Action News in Kansas City was invited along.

Cataract surgery on primates is extremely rare. In fact, this is the first time K-State is doing an operation like this on a lesser ape, like Booger.

"You're looking at an ape here, something pretty close to a human being," Savorelli says.

Booger was first given anesthesia, then she was wheeled into the operating room where Dr. Meekins made an incision into her eye.

"I would say her eye itself is, gosh, about half the size of a human eye. That may be even a generous estimation," Meekins said.

Eventually, they were able to break up the cataract and remove the lens from the eye. Each eye takes about an hour to complete.

"You never know what is going to come in through the door," Dr. James Carpenter,K-State Professor of Exotic Pet, Wildlife and Zoological Medicine said.

This surgery isn't the only unique operation Carpernter has seen recently. Just last month, he and his team

inside a ferret - another first for the school.

"As people get more educated and there are more exotic pets out there and people are willing to take the next step in terms of quality of life, there will be other procedures like this that we will be able to do and develop," Carpenter said.

"Technology is just wonderful. Veterinarian medicine is just exciting because there are so many things you can do," he added.