Vet Performs World-First Surgery to Save Aged 205lb Sumatran Tiger’s Ulcerated Eye

June 11, 2021 Updated: June 11, 2021


In the first surgery of its kind, a vet saved a Sumatran tiger’s eye that had developed a corneal ulcer.

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

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

However, the staff at the wildlife park noticed the vision in that eye was deteriorating continuously; a specialist vet then diagnosed Ratna with a corneal ulcer. The cornea is the transparent part that covers the front of the eye, including the pupil and the iris.

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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 205-pound (93 kg) Sumatran tiger.

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

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

“It’s like we might do with any domestic cat, but with a lot more anesthetic,” he said. “But I don’t think anyone’s ever done this before in this species.”

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The hood graft procedure involved securing a flap of the conjunctiva—the pink-colored tissue that lines the inside of the eye—over the cornea, which allows the cornea to heal itself.

Staff at Shepreth said that Ratna was already on daily eye drops following her cataract surgery, but her eye coordination seemed to deteriorate earlier this year.

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Park director Rebecca Willers said the elderly tiger’s favorite pastime is sitting on the top platform in the enclosure, but due to her eye condition, the big cat had become “a little uncertain” about getting down again.

“Her coordination seems much better now, and the best thing is the operation has eradicated the need for Ratna to have her eye drops, and she was never that keen on those,” Willers added.

Williams signed Ratna off after two months of careful monitoring following the operation in February.

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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Epoch Times staff contributed to this report.

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