Paignton Zoo elephant Duchess recovering after eye surgery

Duchess the African elephant
Image caption Duchess has the eye conditions glaucoma and cataracts

An elephant in a south Devon zoo is recovering well after receiving surgery to remove an eye.

Paignton Zoo's four tonne African elephant Duchess became the first in the UK to undergo the operation.

Duchess had been plagued by pain after glaucoma and cataracts had left her virtually blind.

Animal experts decided the operation would be the best treatment after using eye-drops and pain relief for some time.

Ghislaine Sayers, head of veterinary services for Paignton Zoo, said pressure in Duchess's right eye had increased to the point where it could "no longer be controlled by drugs".

'Tense procedure'

Ms Sayers said: "The drops worked short term but became less effective and long-term pain relief can have side effects.

Image caption Duchess is the only elephant at Paignton Zoo

"The only solution to keep her pain free was to remove the eye," she added.

Paignton Zoo spokesman Phil Knowling said the operation - which took place earlier this month - went smoothly but "everyone wanted to see her come round from the anaesthetic".

Zoo keeper Jim Dicks, who has been with Duchess for 20 years, called her name and shouted encouragement as she came around.

Mr Dicks said it was "always tense during major procedures" and there was a "spontaneous cheer and a round of applause when she got to her feet".

Ms Sayers said a "fairly large team of people" had been drafted in for the operation so Duchess could go on to live a happy and healthy life.

"The procedure certainly seems to have gone well," she said.

"She was up on her feet within minutes of coming round and is eating and looking well.

"She will be a little groggy for a while but we're confident the procedure was a success."

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