• By Keng Jin Lee
    Akron Beacon Journal
    Cataract/Anterior Segment, Comprehensive Ophthalmology

    A 1.25-pound golden lion tamarin named Ana successfully underwent cataract surgery at the Akron Zoo in Ohio on June 3, 2017. Veterinarians believe this was first such procedure performed in a primate so small.

    Although cataract surgery is not uncommon in domestic and exotic animals, Ana's tiny 5-mm corneas made her surgery particularly challenging, according to Dr. William Wiley, medical director of Clear Choice Laser Surgery, who volunteered to perform the operation for free.

    “We used some of our micro-instruments for the surgery, and even had to fashion new instruments to fit in her eyes,” Dr. Wiley said.

    A few months prior to the operation, zookeepers noticed that Ana was having trouble navigating her enclosure inside the Komodo Kingdom at the zoo. Following an examination, the zoo’s veterinary staff determined that the distinctly-hued primate had developed cataracts.

    The staff took Ana off exhibit and monitored her closely while doctors assessed how to perform the surgery on such a small creature.

    “While tamarin eyes have similar anatomy of humans, it took more care and precision working on a much smaller scale with Ana,” said Dr. Wiley, adding he jumped at the chance to be a part of the unusual surgery that would benefit an animal in need.

    Ana is now aphakic and remains off exhibit while her eyes heal. She is currently receiving daily eyedrops and pain medication.

    Ana came to the Akron Zoo in 2008 from another institution near Seattle. Rare in captivity and in the wild, golden lion tamarins are native to South America and are considered endangered due to deforestation, with an estimated natural population of only 3,500.