Endangered Lion-Tailed Macaque Has Two Successful Eye Procedures

“Thelma,” a 29-year old lion-tailed macaque at Reid Park Zoo, recently underwent two eye surgeries to improve her comfort and restore her vision. As an elderly animal, her Keepers watch her behaviors closely and some of her actions indicated she was in discomfort. A physical exam revealed mature cataracts in both eyes and a severely elevated pressure (glaucoma) in one eye as a result.

On July 25th Dr. Alexis Moreno, the Zoo’s veterinarian, consulted with veterinary ophthalmologists Dr. Emily Moeller and Dr. Chris Smith to perform an emergency surgery at the Zoo. Unfortunately the severe glaucoma caused rreversible damage to her left eye which had to be removed. Her vision in the remaining eye was severely compromised by the cataract and she was at high risk for developing glaucoma in this eye as well. The decision was made to consult with an intraocular lens implantation specialist to remove the cataract and replace the lens with a new one, thus restoring her vision and preventing glaucoma.

Dr. William Fishkind, a local ophthalmologist, and the Director of the Fishkind, Bakewell & Maltzman Eye Care and Surgery Center in Tucson, volunteered to perform the second procedure yesterday. “I’m very pleased with how the surgery went,” says Dr. Fishkind. “It was an honor to work with the team at Reid Park Zoo. I was amazed at level of commitment by her keepers and the veterinary team at the Zoo. This surgery clearly provided a better life for an important animal at the Zoo…and helping is a splendid thing!”

While the median life expectancy for lion-tailed macaques is unknown, very few live past the age of 30 in accredited Zoos and it’s likely very few live past the age of 20 in the wild. “I’m proud that we were able to restore a better life for this animal,” says Dr. Moreno. “Our philosophy at Reid Park Zoo is that every animal, be it a bird or a primate, young or old, receives the highest level of care possible. Thelma is back on exhibit with the rest of her troop today, and clearly feeling better.”

Lion-tailed macaques are a critically endangered species of primate, with as few as 2,500 individual animals remaining in the wild scattered throughout Southern India. Reid Park Zoo currently houses a troop of 5 individuals. Thelma is the oldest.

Reid Park Zoo is a world class facility that welcomes over half a million visitors per year. Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Zoo provides whole-life care for hundreds of exotic animals, representing a variety of habitats around the world. Reid Park Zoo encourages commitment to the conservation of wildlife while providing educational and fun experiences for visitors of all ages.

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