Veterinarians Restore Sun Bear’s Eyesight

A 17-year-old sun bear that endured several years of blindness has had his sight restored after receiving corrective eye surgery from a team of ophthalmological experts visiting from the U.K.

According to the Free the Bears NGO, which runs a sanctuary for 90 endangered sun bears in Takeo province’s Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue center, Kong—who spent years in a cage before his rescue—underwent corrective cataract and lens surgery earlier this week.

Kong, a 17-year-old sun bear, undergoes surgery to restore his eyesight at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center in Takeo province earlier this week. (Peter Yuen/Free the Bears)
Kong, a 17-year-old sun bear, undergoes surgery to restore his eyesight at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center in Takeo province earlier this week. (Peter Yuen/Free the Bears)

“[A] team of four vets and one specialist ophthalmic nurse spent almost 3 hours operating on Kong with incredible results,” Free the Bears said in a statement. “When he awoke from surgery, the 17-year-old bear had clearly regained vision in his left eye and the specialists are confident that he has now regained his sight.”

Lost eyesight is not the only injury suffered by the dozens of sun bears at the center, who are highly valued for the bile stored in their gall bladders that is used in traditional Chinese medicine.

“Many bears arriving at the sanctuary have scars from their capture and incarceration prior to rescue; including missing limbs (lost to snares), psychological damage caused by poor care or visual impairments due to poor diet and other factors,” Free the Bears said.

The visiting team hails from the U.K.’s Animal Health Trust and also performed surgeries on three other sun bears, the smallest species in the bear family, which are also hunted for their skin and paws.

The visit also provided an opportunity to train local wildlife veterinarians, the NGO said.

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