Orangutan Appeal UK funds world first

Aman Before

Orangutan Appeal UK has made history by funding the world’s first cataract operation on a mature male orangutan.

Aman, a 19 year old dominant male orangutan, became the centre of attention when he underwent a bilateral cataract surgery in Sarawak, Borneo. This type of operation has never been performed on an orangutan before making it a world first! Orangutan Appeal UK working in partnership with the conservation organisation the Great Orangutan Project, a coalition of local initiatives, funded all of the costs of the operation, to the tune of £2700, and Dr Venter, the operating ophthalmologist, and Dr Frik Stegmann, the anaesthetist, generously donated their services - making this amazing feat possible.

Aman had been left virtually blind by developing cataracts in both eyes over the last 10 years. The three hour long operation to restore his sight was performed at the Matang Wildlife Centre in Sarawak, Malaysia, and was conducted by specialist animal ophthalmologist Dr Izak Venter of South Africa, and specialist anaesthetist, Frik Stegmann, also from South Africa. They were assisted by a local veterinarian Dr S. Amilan, who said:

Surgical techniques for animals have really progressed. During the procedure a small incision is made in the eye, then the lens is opened and the cloudy contents removed with a probe.

Up until now Amans’ life has sadly seen a series of unfortunate events. After being rescued from a market in Sarawak in 1989 he was then kept as a pet before being handed over to the Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. Tragically whilst at Semmenggoh he bit into a power cable resulting in him receiving severe electric shocks, and it is these electric shocks which may have brought about the onset of cataracts. Amans’ deteriorating sight meant he had to be brought back into captivity and the safety of the Matang Wildlife Centre. Aman has since fathered three daughters, Doris, 7 years old, Mamu who is 3 and a new baby only one month old still to be named.

Aman operationAman after operation

The operation has been declared a success, which is a remarkable achievement, and has brought his rehabilitation into the wild a step closer. The Orangutan Appeal is delighted to have been able to help, and Sue Sheward, Chairperson of the charity said: ‘We were delighted to be asked to help and are very proud that our involvement will mean Amans’ quality of life has been greatly improved’. He will also now be able to see his children for the first time.

Guillaume Feldman, Project Director of the Great Orangutan Project said:

This is a leading example of how orangutan custodians, from charities, to volunteer companies, to individuals, can share a common vision and put their conservation debates to one side and get on and save the species from the brink of extinction.