Cataract surgery for elderly penguins

As many of us are aware, vision starts to decline with age especially in elderly penguins who eventually need cataract surgery to improve their vision and increase the chances of their survival.

For the first time in the world, cataract surgery is performed for elderly penguins. The procedure was performed by veterinarians from the Mandai Life organization. Three King penguins and three Humboldt penguins were operated on.

The three King penguins, over 20 years old, an advanced age for the species, were also fitted with intraocular lenses.

King penguins undergo cataract surgery.

Why do they do cataract surgery for penguins?

These are animals that had been rescued off the coast of Argentina. Eventually, the King penguins were transferred to the Singapore Zoo. While the three Humboldt penguins, aged between 3 and 7 years, were destined for the Jurong Bird Park in Singapore.

The keepers of the seabirds noticed that they had like little clouds in their eyes and that their movements were erratic, plus they were stumbling over whatever was in front of them.

The decision was then made to have cataract surgery to improve their quality of life. The three King penguins also received intraocular lens implants designed and manufactured in Germany.

Humboldt penguins undergo cataract surgery.

According to ophthalmologist Gladys Boo, who performed the procedure, this is a milestone in veterinary medicine worldwide. Each of the lenses was custom-made to fit the eyes of each of the penguins. This special manufacturing process took two months.

According to the ophthalmologist, the King penguin, also called Emperor penguin, is a large bird with large and stable eyes. Therefore, they had no problem adapting to and holding the custom-made lenses.

Penguin cataract surgery details.

Cataracts cause cloudy areas in the eyes making vision difficult and are conditions that are associated with advancing age in many species, including humans.

The surgery had a certain degree of difficulty because penguins have particular characteristics in their eyes. They have a third eyelid that protects their eyes when they are underwater. The problem is that this third eyelid tends to close when the penguin is under anesthesia during the operation.

After the surgical procedures, all six penguins had to be out of the water. The veterinarians gave them special care, administering eye drops into their eyes twice daily.

King or Emperor penguins

Getting to know these penguin species better.

The King or Emperor penguin is the largest extant species of this bird. It inhabits the southern Atlantic Ocean, Sub Antarctic and the coasts of Argentina and Chile. They are not in danger of extinction, because they are protected by wildlife laws. Their weight can reach 18 kilos, with a height of 1 meter and they live up to 30 years approximately. In turn, the Humboldt penguin is much smaller and inhabits the Pacific coasts of Chile and Peru.

This is not the first time that Singapore’s Jurong Bird Park has been in the news for this type of procedure. Some time ago, they performed a treatment of aa hornbill with cancer, which had a new beak made using a 3D printer.

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