Blinded orangutan shot 104 times set for operation to restore her sight

Aan was shot on a palm oil plantation in 2012 (PA)
Aan was shot on a palm oil plantation in 2012 (PA)

An orangutan who was left blind in one eye after being shot 104 times with an air rifle is to have surgery to restore her sight.

Tragic Aan won the hearts of animal lovers across the globe after she was shot on a palm oil plantation in Indonesian Borneo in 2012.

Now British vet Claudia Hartley is on a mission to restore the critically endangered creature’s sight.

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The volunteer veterinarian ophthalmologist has travelled to the Lamandau River wildlife reserve in Borneo, where the primate is being cared for by the Orangutan Foundation, to potentially restore sight in her right eye with a simple cataract operation.

She will also remove the primate’s left eye, which was blinded permanently by dozens of pellets in the attack, during the three-hour surgery set to go ahead at 10am local time (2am GMT) on Friday.

Aan is to undergo an operation that could restore her sight (PA)
Aan is to undergo an operation that could restore her sight (PA)

The 44-year-old vet, from Cambridge, said she was feeling “terrified” but optimistic about what lay ahead.

She told the Press Association: “You’re always nervous but especially when it’s so important, such a big deal.

“I think in a way, well I hope, that’s a good sign because it means that I’m taking it very seriously, I’m not blasé about it. I desperately want it to go well, for her.”

Ms Hartley’s team of four flew out earlier this week with 265lb (120kg) of equipment, and will do a dress rehearsal the day before.

The procedure is similar to cataract surgery in humans, and is expected to take around 30 minutes, although administering general anaesthetic and positioning means the whole process will take much longer.

They will also remove Aan’s ruptured left eye in another half hour procedure, as evidence has shown that a chronically scarred eye can be painful even if the animal does not show outward signs.

Ashley Leiman, director of the Orangutan Foundation, said of the team: “This most generous contribution and commitment shows their dedication to wildlife and in particular to Aan with the hope they can restore her sight.

“We will all be wishing them well during this tricky surgery, especially as it will take place in field conditions having to use a portable aesthetic machine.”

Aan's plight has touched the hearts of animal lovers worldwide (PA)
Aan’s plight has touched the hearts of animal lovers worldwide (PA)

Ms Hartley expects to know very soon after the operation if it has been successful, but warned that it may take until the following day to know for sure.

There are approximately 56,000 orangutans estimated to live in the wild in Borneo. They are critically endangered and reproduce slowly, on average only once every seven to eight years.

Enclosure staff have described Aan, estimated to be between 10 and 12 years old, as a “clever” primate.

If the operation is successful, she will be kept in the enclosure for a further three to four weeks to ensure she continues her post-op medication before being released into the wild.

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