A total of four SeaWorld Orlando penguins -- one rockhopper and three gentoo - are healing nicely after receiving a specialty surgery on August 28, 2014 to remove cataracts at Animal Eye Associates in Maitland, Fla. The surgery was performed by veterinary ophthalmologist Dr. Heidi Denis, who specializes in animal ophthalmology. “As penguins get older they begin to show age-related health issues, just like humans,” said Dr. Lara Croft, Senior Veterinarian.
“One of these signs is cataracts – a clouding of the eye lens that affects their quality of vision and quality of life. Thanks to this surgery, these four penguins will eventually regain vision and can return to normal behaviors, including eating on their own and swimming.”
The four penguins range in age from early to late 20s, which exceeds the life expectancy of their wild counterparts. Older penguins in the wild with compromised vision would most likely succumb to predators or starvation.
SeaWorld aviculturists noticed some of the older penguins in the Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin habitat weren’t eating and needed to be hand-fed. The vets arranged a consultation with eye specialists, and the ophthalmology team at Animal Eye Associates cleared the penguins for the procedure.
“Cataracts are very prevalent in our more than 20-year-old birds, and we now have regular ophthalmology consults for all of our older birds. Including these recent procedures, 17 penguins have been given restored sight with this surgery,” Dr. Croft said.
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