Silvia is a 41-year-old female chimpanzee that i sable to rediscover the world after a cataract operation. In this operation the same surgical techniques as in humans were used. Now she can share her experiences as a “grandmother” with the three females and their youngs, as well as with the male with which she could still propagate herself.
The chimpanzee changed her bahaviour “overnight” since she hardly was able to see more than shades in a distance of not more than ten centimeters. Now she carefully looks at the details in the zoo keeper´s faces which she “scans” from top to bottom, confirms Juan Vicente Martínez, the chief of zoo keepers and curator of terrestral mammals in Loro Parque.
The “very calm and kind” Silvia was the first mammal that came to this zoo in Tenerife which opened its doors with only one parrot colllection. She was saved from her hard life which she had t olive for years. She was chained up with a collar and was used by a street photographer to make pictures of tourists with her.
She took the opportunity to finally fell “like a real chimpanzee” and got a companion with which she procreated many youngs. She cast her last young 18 years ago and before that she had twins, which is very uncommon for this species even in the wild.
But chimpanzees do only have a life expectancy of 50 years and Silvia with her 41 years already is old and had lost her sight almost completely as a result of a cataract. Even though she continued playing and still was in good mood, she had to move slowly and tentatively towards the glasses of juice, which the keepers brought to the chimpanzees, since she could not take it at the first attempt.
Then it was decided to give her back her quality of life and with the help of experts from the United Kingdom and Italy – together with a group of veterinarians – it was agreed on the operation of the female chimpanzee in which the cataract was removed and which did note ven last half an hour.It was exactly the same operation which is performed in a human who, after all, has 98.7% of its physical characteristics with a chimpanzee in common. Silvia woke up from the anesthesia in a room which was prepared like a “nest”. It contained palm leaves and music for babies was played while her keeper held her hand and spoke calmly to her.
In the moment which she opened her eyes she could already see and now, two weeks after, she has recovered completely: she does not even need medicine any more.
It is likely that she can already be united with her family, which consists of an adult male, three other females and three youngs, this week. She will be the grandmother and show the rest of the chimpanzees how to care for the youngs since this is her speciality.
She could become mother again since she still is fertile. This was not possible in the past years because she lived together with a male with which she was not “compatible”. They were not interested in each other, explains Juan Vicente Martínez.
It is the perfect way to spend one´s remaining years for an animal which had many hardships in iths life and now is healthy and able to see again. “She discovers the world which she was not able to see for many years”, says the responsable of the keepers.In fact, she now is “spoiled” with hapiness “because she deserves it” and the keepers are very happy to see that she had slept through the operation and suddenly – after she awoke – she was able to see. Something, that Silvia is not able to understand. An example for the extent change of the change in her life is the fact that now she is “finally” able to watch movies and documentaries on nature on the flat screen TV which the chimpanzees in Loro Parque have.
But before going to bed, the chimpanzees listen to classical music “which they like” and “to which they listen to, like a lullaby”, because, as soon as they hear the music, they take the young´s hands and all together in the bedroom to end the day.