A team of veterinarians from the Mandai Wildlife Reserve, Singapore, successfully performed cataract surgery on six penguins, which they said was a “milestone in veterinary medicine”.
As a result of the operation, “the geriatric penguins from the Jurong Bird Park, three king penguins and three Humboldt penguins” received their sight.” The veterinarians reported “the surgical removal of cataracts, a common age-related condition” that develops in geriatric animals and makes their vision difficult.”
In addition, they noted that “king penguins also received the custom of intraocular lens implantation, which involves the replacement of artificial lenses in the eye, a system believed to be the first in the world for penguins.”
In this sense, the Mandai veterinarian, Ellen Rasidi, declares that she understood that “their glasses are cloudy and it seems difficult to see things in front of them”. Therefore, when “medical cataracts for animals are made more common and effective in the vision”, “we hoped this way to improve their health, as well as help them transition to a new home in the Bird Paradise moving.”
Rasidi says that after the recovery period, the aptenodytes “created levels of response and activity.” “It’s good to see them more active, indicating that their vision is improving, and the king is adjusting appropriately to his glasses,” he said.
In the Mandai reserve, the animals in addition to 75% of their “space” are placed in a special senior animal care plan, which includes veterinary checks and special old age diets. This work is carried out by professionals such as the veterinary ophthalmologist Gladys Boo, who was hired in August 2022 by the organization to check the penguins’ eyes, which were later diagnosed with cataracts.
The operation was carried out after the diagnosis by the veterinary team and “after the surgery, the penguins had to stay out of the water and recover in a tunnel separated from the rest of the colony, while the keepers administered drops to the eyes twice a day,” they point out.
At birth, intraocular lenses are implanted in the eyes of king penguins.
Veterinary profession milestone
The surgeries performed by this team of veterinarians marked a milestone in veterinary medicine, because “intraocular lens implantation is common to humans and some domestic mammals, but was probably used successfully for the first time in penguins.” Boo says.
“The king penguin has eyes large enough and stable enough to hold custom lenses in place, so we decided to go ahead with this world-first procedure to improve his vision beyond lens removal,” said the cataract ophthalmologist. the custom of the lenses was made in Germany to fit each penguin’s eye according to previously determined measurements.”
“Cataract operations alone are already exquisite procedures, but aptenodytes have become more complicated due to particular features, such as the third eyelid, which protects its eyes underwater. The third eyelid tends to close during surgery which can make it difficult for us to access the eye, he explains.
Aptenodytes made a full recovery two months after surgery and are now back with the rest of the colon.
King penguin undergoing cataract surgery.