Chimp undergoes world-first operation

A Wellington ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon has performed life-saving surgery on a -- chimpanzee.

The operation, believed to be world first, cured an infection in the inner ear and skull of 28-year-old chimpanzee Cara, who has suffered from a bacterial ear infection for five or six years, The Dominion Post reported today.

Wellington Zoo staff tried to treat the infection with antibiotics but it became resistent to the medication, and the infection began to eat part of her skull.

If left untreated, it would have spread to her brain and killed her.

ENT surgeon Rebecca Garland, who works for Capital and Coast District Health Board, donated her time and equipment to help vets with Cara's surgery.

Dr Garland said research showed the surgery had never before been performed on a chimpanzee.

"The ear was almost closed from the chronic infection, and sticks and straw. We ended up taking out all of the ear canal, and closed the entrance so she won't be able to stick anything in there.

"It's just like a belly button instead of an ear now, but she hasn't heard out of that ear in a long time."

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