Ground-Breaking Eye Operation German Vets Try to Restore Blind Baby Rhino's Sight

In the first-ever operation of its kind, veterinarians in Germany have tried to restore a blind baby rhino's sight. But if the operation is not a sucess, Heini will have to be put down.

For eight-month-old baby rhino Heini, an eye operation was his only chance of survival. The blind youngster would have been rejected by the rhino herd in the Serengeti Park in Hodenhagen near Hamburg where he lives. It was either go under the knife -- or be put to sleep.

In a three-hour operation Wednesday, the team, led by Hamburg veterinarian Jens Linek, removed cataracts from the eight-month-old baby rhino's eyes with ultrasound. However the original plan of implanting artificial lenses turned out to be impossible, due to the rhino's anatomy.

Nonetheless, Heini should still be able to see -- albeit with slightly blurry vision -- as far as nine meters, which is not much less than the 15-meter range of a normal rhino. The vets say it is the first-ever eye operation on a rhino.

Although Linek said the operation "went well," it is too early to say if the €15,000 intervention was a success or not. They will only know if little Heini can see in two weeks' time, when all the wounds have healed. If the operation is not a success, however, Heini will still have to be put down.



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