A 45-year old Asian elephant in Amsterdam’s Artis Zoo has become the first in Europe to be fitted with a contact lens.

Win Thida, the oldest elephant in the zoo’s herd and a popular attraction, badly scratched her eye during a scuffle with another elephant.

The elephant had to be anaesthetised standing up for a delicate operation to stop her eye becoming badly infected which lasted just under an hour.

“I was called in when the zoo reported that Win Thida’s eye was painful and streaming,” said Anne-Marie Verbruggen, a vet.

“The main difficulty was her height. Elephants can’t lie down for long before their immense weight impairs their breathing, so I used a ladder to get close enough. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked. She seemed happier straight away.”

Win Thida started life as a working elephant in Burma and was moved to a zoo in Arnhem in 1989. She transferred to Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 2004, and has become a favourite with children there.