Risky, Remarkable Surgery Restores Gorilla's Sight

Timbo is considered a senior citizen among the great apes at the Dallas Zoo.  So, when the 47-year-old gorilla needed eye surgery keepers at the Dallas Zoo knew it could be risky.

When keepers noticed Timbo wasn't recognizing her food and was easily startled by the two other gorillas in her enclosure, zoo officials called on Dr. R. Wayne Bowman, a Dallas eye doctor with over 25 years of ophthalmology experience.

"You could look at her eyes and tell. You could see the cloudy film over the eyes," said Tami Jochum, senior mammal keeper.

Dr. Bowman was understandably anxious about performing cataract surgery on the female gorilla.

"She was a good patient," said Bowman. "I was pretty nervous at first. When you see her and meet her, you feel this greater sense of responsibility than when you're working on a human."

Still pictures show the story of this remarkable and risky surgery. The procedure was only the second surgery of its kind in the United States.

The surgery was almost identical to that of human cataract surgeries, Bowman said. He took all of the usual measurements and used artificial lenses to improve Timbo's vision. The cataract surgery was a success.

The surgery was a life upgrade for Timbo, who can now see the people who come to visit her better than ever.  

"She's especially oriented towards kids, especially towards babies," Jochum said. Timbo has never had her own baby. Click on the video above to watch as a now totally recovered Timbo comes alive when interacting with children.

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