In 2010, CSar, a 38-year old elephant in the North Carolina Zoo was diagnosed with cataracts and has received two rare surgeries since then to correct his eyes.
The zoo caretakers and a team of veterinarians from North Carolina State University are now considering to give the elephant corrective lenses. If they decide to go through with the corrective lenses, it would make CSar the first elephant to ever to receive corrective lenses, but not contact lenses. Richard McMullen, assistant professor of veterinary ophthalmology at N.C. State said, “A contact lense has been used once before on an elephant in Amsterdam in February, but just as a bandage for a few days to keep foreign objects out of the eye after surgery.”
Also, if they decide on the corrective lenses, they would have to be changed about every three months, during which C’Sar would have to be put to sleep.
“It’s never been used before in an elephant or in many animal species, and so it’s a little bit difficult for us to predict how it would affect him,” said McMullen. Richard McMullen performed both of C’Sar’s cataract surgeries.
In 2010 when the Asheboro, North Carolina zoo noticed something white in the elephant’s eyes, they knew something was wrong. “At first, the thickening clouds in his eyes didn’t seem to bother C’sar, even when those in his right eye grew dense enough to block most of the light,” Dr. Ryan DeVoe, the zoo’s senior veterinarian said. Once CSar’s left eye got serious, the zoo started to see changes in the elephant. He seemed lethargic and depressed and had troubles getting around his 7.5 acre exhibit. He would mostly stand in a corner and lean on a wall all day. The 12,000 pound elephant had also lost 1,000 pounds.
C’sar had cataract surgeries in October and May. He started to perk up and was gaining back his weight. The cataract surgeries have left C’sar farsighted. The veterinarians know that is because he is missing his natural lenses. At first they wanted to implant prosthetic lenses, but McMullen says the structure of C’Sar’s eye isn’t strong enough.
“I’ve learned so much from this case,” Dr. Ryan DeVoe, the zoo’s senior veterinarian. “My gut says that there won’t be a dramatic improvement with contacts, but if you had asked me before the second surgery, I’d have said the same thing. We have seen unexpected results so far, and it could happen again.”