Singapore penguins receive ‘world’s first’ personalized lenses after successful cataract surgery
According to a Singapore zoo, three elderly king penguins were fitted with custom-made eye lenses during surgery to remove cataracts in what is believed to be a world-first procedure to improve their eyesight.
In a statement on Tuesday, veterinarians from the Mandai Wildlife Group said the birds were among six elderly penguins to have had cataract surgery two months ago and have since made a full recovery.
They include three king penguins aged 20 and over and three Humboldt penguins, aged 7 to 13, who live in Singapore’s Jurong Bird Park.
Cataract, which causes cloudy areas in the eye that interfere with sight, is a common age-related condition in humans and animals.
“We noticed the cloudiness in their (eyes) and moving around as if they were having trouble seeing things in front of them,” veterinarian Ellen Rasidi said, explaining the decision to remove the cataracts.
The king penguins received custom-made intraocular lens implants, said Gladys Boo, a veterinary ophthalmologist who was involved in the surgeries, which she said marked “a milestone in veterinary medicine”.
The lenses were custom-made in Germany with precise measurements to fit each penguin’s eye — a process that took two months, Boo said.
“As a larger species, king penguins have eyes large enough and stable enough to hold the custom lenses in place, so we decided to pursue this world-first procedure to further improve their vision beyond eliminating cataract,” she said.
Photos taken behind the scenes showed the tricky procedure, which Boo said was particularly tricky for the penguins due to their unique features, such as a third eyelid that protects their eyes underwater but tends to droop. close under the effect of surgery.
After the operation, the six penguins had to stay out of the water and zoo keepers administered eye drops twice a day.
King penguins are the second largest penguin species and are found in the Southern and Subantarctic Ocean.
Although they are not endangered, they are protected by wildlife laws. They can weigh up to 18 kilograms (40 pounds) and grow up to 1 meter (39 inches) in height and can live up to 30 years in captivity.
Zookeepers and veterinarians said they observed “increased responsiveness and activity levels” in the penguins after the operation.
“It’s nice to see them more active, which indicates an improvement in their vision,” said Rasidi, the vet. “King penguins also adapt well to new purposes.”
Singapore’s world-renowned Jurong Bird Park was home to some 3,500 birds, including parrots, flamingos and eagles, before closing last August to prepare for a move to new premises, where it will join the zoo and the city’s night safari and a new luxury resort to form an ecotourism hub.
The park has been involved in several high-profile rescues and rehabilitation efforts over the years, including treating a hornbill with cancer by fitting it with a 3D-printed prosthetic beak.