Vets perform sight-saving surgery on penguin

A Humboldt penguin named Munch has become the first of his kind to have sight-saving surgery at Chester Zoo. Credit: Chester Zoo

A team of eye specialists have carried out sight-saving surgery on a penguin at Chester Zoo.

Four-year-old Munch, a Humboldt penguin at Chester Zoo, was discovered to be experiencing blindness in both of his eyes from cataracts, a disorder which creates cloudy patches on the lens which get bigger overtime.

Bird conservationists noticed the issue when Munch was having difficulty catching fish during feeding times and started bumping into other members of the zoo’s colony of Humboldt penguins.

We spotted that Munch was swimming slower than normal and was struggling to dive for the fish at feeding times – and if a penguin can’t catch a fish then you know something is amiss. That’s when we called in the zoo’s vets. “After a thorough examination, 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. This meant that only specialist treatment could save his vision.

Sophie Bissaker, Parrots and Penguin Keeper at Chester Zoo

Following an assessment by the zoo’s team of on-site vets, it was decided that only specialist treatment could save Munch’s sight, and so animal optical care experts at Eye Vet were called in to help perform the zoo’s first ever penguin cataracts operation.Now, just a few weeks after his surgery, experts at the zoo have reported that Munch is back with the rest of the colony and nearing a full recovery.

I’ve been in the veterinary field for almost 24 years and Munch is the very first penguin I’ve operated on – they’re not regular clients that’s for sure. Unfortunately, because his quality of life was impacted by the diminished sight, surgery was the only option we had available to us.

Iona Mathieson, Veterinary Ophthalmologist at Eye Vet