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World-first operation sees vet save tiger's eye

·2-min read

Story from SWNS

A world-first operation has seen a vet save a tiger's eye - after the big cat developed an ulcer on its cornea.

Sumatran tiger Ratna underwent the 30-minute procedure in February, in what is believed to be the first-ever attempt by a vet to carry out the surgery on her species.

The 17-year-old tiger, who lives at Shepreth Wildlife Park near Cambridge, had previously had a cataract removed from her left eye in 2019.

But staff at the wildlife park noticed the vision in that eye was continuing to deteriorate - and a specialist eye vet diagnosed Ratna with a corneal ulcer.

The cornea is the transparent part which covers the front of the eye, including the pupil and the iris.

Surgeon Dr David Williams, from the Queen's Veterinary School Hospital at the University of Cambridge, carried out the world-first corneal surgery on the 93-kilo Sumatran tiger.

A world-first operation has seen a vet save a tiger's EYE - after the big cat developed an ulcer on its cornea. Sumatran tiger Ratna underwent the 30-minute procedure in February, in what is believed to be the first-ever attempt by a vet to carry out the surgery on her species. (SWNS)
A world-first operation has seen a vet save a tiger's EYE - after the big cat developed an ulcer on its cornea. Sumatran tiger Ratna underwent the 30-minute procedure in February, in what is believed to be the first-ever attempt by a vet to carry out the surgery on her species. (SWNS)

And he said it required "a lot more anesthetic" than it would for a domestic cat or dog.

Dr Williams said he suspected the ulcer may have been caused by Ratna "jabbing" her eye on a stick of bamboo in her enclosure.

He said: "It's like we might do with any domestic cat - but with a lot more anesthetic.

"But I don't think anyone's ever done this before in this species."

The hood graft procedure involved securing a flap of conjunctiva - the pink of the eye - over the cornea, which allows the cornea to heal itself.

Surgeon Dr David Williams, from the Queen's Veterinary School Hospital at the University of Cambridge, carried out the world-first corneal surgery on the 93-kilo Sumatran tiger. (SWNS)
Surgeon Dr David Williams, from the Queen's Veterinary School Hospital at the University of Cambridge, carried out the world-first corneal surgery on the 93-kilo Sumatran tiger. (SWNS)

Staff at Shepreth said that Ratna was already on daily eyedrops following her cataract surgery in 2019 - but that her co-ordination seemed to deteriorate earlier this year.

Park director Rebecca Willers said Ratna's favourite pastime is sitting on the top platform in the enclosure - but that the elderly tiger had become "a little uncertain" about getting down again.

Rebecca added: "Her co-ordination seems much better now, and the best thing is the operation has eradicated the need for Ratna to have her eyedrops - and she was never that keen on those."

And Dr Williams has just signed Ratna off after two months of careful monitoring following the operation.

He said Ratna has been "fantastic" in allowing him to look after her eye, and that she is now "absolutely fine".

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