An Asian elephant has become the first pachyderm in Europe to be fitted with a stylish new eye lens. 44-year old Win-Thida who resides in Amsterdam's Artis Zoo, injured her left eye when she was poked by a fellow elephant during a scuffle, on December 26th.
Soon after, the zookeepers noticed that the elephant's left eye was beginning to stream and she was having a hard time keeping it open. Upon closer examination, they realized that poor Win-Thida's cornea had been scratched and that if something was not done soon, she could lose her vision. They tried to administer several creams and painkillers, but nothing worked.
Meanwhile, every time the elephant blinked, its cornea got increasingly worse. Concerned, they summoned expert veterinarian Anne-Marie Verbruggen. Though the doctor had fitted horses with eye lens, she had no experience with elephants. The first challenge was to administer a mild local anesthesia, so that Win-Thida would not feel any pain. However, unlike other animals, elephants cannot lie down for long periods of time, because their huge weight impacts their breathing. Therefore, the doctor had to inject the anesthesia, while the pachyderm was upright.
Once she knew the eye had been numbed, Anne-Marie immediately got to work. Perched on a ladder, she quickly pried open Win-Thida's injured eye and fitted the giant lens, which was eight times the size worn by humans. The whole procedure took about an hour.
According to the zoo officials, the elephant looked like she was feeling better almost immediately. As days have progressed, she is finding it a lot easier to open and close her eye and the experts are hoping that the protective lens will slide out by itself in a few weeks as the cornea starts to heal - if not, Dr. Anne-Marie will just have to climb the ladder and yank it out!
Resources: telegraph.co,uk, vancoversun.com,news.yahoo.com, animaltracks.today.msnbc.msn.com