Akron Zoo performs cataract surgery on small, endangered primate

AKRON, Ohio-- The Akron Zoo recently performed cataract surgery on a golden lion tamarin.

Keepers noticed a few months ago that Ana was having trouble getting around her exhibit. They soon learned the tamarin, a type of endangered primate, had developed cataracts.

The 13-year-old animal was moved to an off-exhibit area, which included nets to keep her safe. The zoo said she was also trained to rely on her other senses to find her food and water.

The Akron Zoo partnered with the Cleveland Eye Clinic and Great Lakes Veterinary Specialists to perform the laser eye surgery on Ana on June 3.

"Cataract surgery has been performed on various non-human primates before, but to the best of our knowledge, it has never been performed on a primate with a similar size of a golden lion tamarin," said Dr. Emily Conway, veterinary ophthalmologist at Great Lakes Veterinary Specialists.

"Because of Ana’s size – Ana weighs in at approx. 1.25 pounds – we had some challenges to overcome," said Dr. William Wiley, medical director of Clear Choice Laser Surgery and the Cleveland Eye Clinic. "We used some of our micro-instruments for the surgery, and even had to fashion new instruments to fit in her eyes. While tamarin eyes have similar anatomy of humans, it took more care and precision working on a much smaller scale with Ana."

Ana is recovering with drops, pain medication and antibiotics. She remains off exhibit.

According to the Akron zoo, information on this unique surgery will be shared to help others care for the critically endangered species.

This species is endangered mostly because of deforestration in South America.