Above: Following his procedure, Munch the Humboldt penguin spent time recovering in a shallower nursery pool while keepers monitored his post-surgery progress. He was joined by his life partner, Wurly, who kept him company throughout his recovery

 

A FOUR-YEAR-OLD male penguin at Chester Zoo has undergone a two-hour sight-saving operation.

Bird conservationists at the zoo noticed that Munch the Humboldt penguin (Spheniscus humboldti) was having difficulty catching fish and bumping into other penguins in the colony. Further assessment by the zoo’s team of on-site vets discovered the bird to be blind in both eyes from cataracts.

“If a penguin can’t catch a fish then you know something is amiss,” said Sophie Bissaker, a parrot and penguin keeper at Chester Zoo.

She continued: “The team discovered that Munch had cloudy patches on the lenses in each of his eyes, leaving him with very little sight in his left eye and none at all in his right.”

It was decided that only specialist treatment could save the bird’s sight. Munch was transported to a veterinary ophthalmologist at Eye Vet in Sutton Weaver, Cheshire, where he underwent a two-hour procedure to remove the cataracts. It’s the first time a Chester Zoo penguin has had to receive such an operation.

Veterinarian Iona Mathieson, who carried out the surgery, commented that this was her first penguin to operate on in her 24-year career. She said: “Unfortunately, because his quality of life was impacted by the diminished sight, surgery was the only option we had available to us.”

Chester Zoo keepers report that the penguin is nearing a full recovery and is back with the rest of his colony.

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