8 Sep 2015

Zoo plugs on with ear surgery for Cara

1:26 pm on 8 September 2015

A chimpanzee at the Wellington Zoo has pulled out an ear plug that vets designed in a last-ditch effort to save her hearing.

The plug was to stop 33-year-old Cara putting sticks and straw in her right ear, in which she has a persistent infection.

Cara the 33 year old chimp loves a juicy pear at Wellington Zoo.

Wellington Zoo chimpanzee Cara, 33, has suffered from a persistent ear infection. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The zoo's veterinary sciences manager, Lisa Argilla, said they knew there was a possibility Cara could remove the plug but it was their last chance to save the ear.

"This was our last shot to save Cara's ear before resorting to ear canal ablation surgery which means removing the entire ear canal, so it was absolutely worth trying."

Her left ear canal has already been removed, and vets are worried she will now go completely deaf after they operate to remove her right canal next month.

Wellington Zoo primate keeper Jacqui Hooper said the ear plug did not stay in for long.

"That plug wasn't very Cara-proof. She's pretty clever and very, very intent on getting things out of her ear - so she got that out pretty quickly.

"So now we've got the problem where we've just got an ongoing ear infection."

The zoo said this could cause some problems as Cara may not be able to hear verbal communications.

However, it said that, as for humans, a large part of Chimpanzee communication is through facial expressions, body language and gestures, so she would still be able to function within the group.

Wellington Zoo Keeper,

Wellington Zoo primate keeper Jacqui Hooper: "That plug wasn't very Cara-proof." Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

A chimpanzee wearing this summers season weaved sack available at Wellington Zoo.

The zoo is worried Cara will struggle with verbal communications from her peers, like this chimp at Wellington Zoo, if her hearing can't be saved. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Mother and baby Chimp at Wellington Zoo.

Some of Cara's peers have a cuddle at Wellington Zoo. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Baby Chimp at Wellington Zoo.

The pecking order at the zoo may be disrupted by Cara's hearing loss. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

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