Blind bear can see again thanks to skilled vets

22 August 2014

Dung (left) James(right)

A young blind moon bear that had learned to live and play in complete darkness has had his sight returned.

Specialist veterinary ophthalmologists from the UK’s Animal Health Trust have restored the sight of James delighting Animals Asia staff at their Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre.

Juvenile bear James was found to be suffering from cataracts during his rescue from Vietnam’s Thanh Hoa province in March.

As James’ right eye had shown little to no reaction to light during his rescue, ophthalmologists feared that the eye would be unable to see even after the removal of a “hypermature” cataract.

Fortunately, the surgery was a complete success with James’ left eye vision believed to have been completely restored and partial vision returned to his right eye.

James' eye operation 3

Using a surgical technique known as phacoemulsification, the expert team made a tiny incision in each eye, after which an instrument was inserted which used ultrasound to break down the lens. The lens segments were then vacuumed out of the eye taking the cataract with them. Through the same tiny hole, a foldable lens was then inserted in place of the natural one.

Senior Veterinarian Joost Philippa said:

“It is very difficult for us to estimate how much James can see with his right eye, because blind bears will use their keen sense of smell and hearing to move around - even with cataracts in both eyes it was sometimes difficult to notice that James could probably only see very little. However, with all the examinations done, and the new lenses in place, we expect sight to be fully restored in the left eye and at least partial vision returned to his right.”

Bear and Vet Team Director Annemarie Weegenaar said:

“The Animal Health Trust team were fantastic and extremely well equipped to perform the operation. It’s a pleasure to watch James playing with his friends and sister Dung – able to see their faces, some for the first time.”

James looking at camera post op