Win Thida, a 45-year old Asian elephant in an Amsterdam zoo, suffered an injury to her cornea after what was thought to be a tussle with another elephant. She was obviously in pain and struggling to keep the eye open, so the zoo called in vet Anne-Marie Verbruggen, who decided to fit a contact lens to protect and soothe the eye. She had often fitted horses with contact lenses, but this was her first attempt with an elephant.

Daily training sessions prepared the elephant for the procedure which took less than an hour. She had to remain standing during the anaesthetic, because elephants can't lie down for long as their immense weight hampers their breathing. As the vet climbed a ladder to reach her patient's eye, Win Thida remained calm and relaxed, was cooperative throughout, and was reported to be happier and more able to keep her eye open immediately after the operation. Protected by the contact lens, the wound on her cornea will now remain clean and be able to heal.

Win Thida has resumed her position as the dominant matriarch of the Amsterdam herd of elephants, and a favourite among visitors to the zoo.

While she may be the first of her species to be fitted with a contact lens, Win Thida is not the first animal to undergo such a procedure. The World Wildlife Fund has sponsored lens transplants for brown bears in a nature reserve in China, as it has been found that vision loss, often due to cataracts, has been found to stop endangered animals from reproducing. Special contact lenses that absorb ultraviolet light are sometimes fitted for horses suffering from "head-shaker syndrome", a painful and life-threatening condition. Rhinos have received contact lenses, which are the size of a man's fist!