Let us start with what is an IOL? IOL stands for an inter-ocular lens, a tiny artificial lens for the eyes. It replaces the eye’s natural lens that is removed during cataract surgery.
Just like humans, animals can develop cataracts that eventually affect their vision. Cataracts are common with aging.
Veterinarians from the Jurong bird park in Singapore noticed the cloudiness in the eyes of 6 penguins. The veterinarians also noticed the penguins were moving about as if they were not seeing things in front of them.
Six geriatric penguins in total had cataract surgery. Of the six, three of them were king penguins, aged 20 and older and three were Humboldt penguins aged 7 to 13. The surgery was performed by a team from Mandai wildlife reserve led by Doctor Gladys Boo, a veterinary ophthalmologist.
Implants are commonly used on humans and some domestic mammals. This is the first in the world used on penguins. The lenses were created in Germany to fit each penguin’s eye based on their measurements. It took two months to make these special lenses for penguins.
What made it so difficult to implant the penguins with the new lenses is that penguins have a third eyelid that protects their eyes when swimming underwater, making it hard to access the lens.
The success of this surgery has enhanced the quality of life for the penguins almost immediately. In the two months since the surgery, the team caring for the penguins has noticed that there is an increase in activity levels and responsiveness of the penguins. They are eating more since they are more competitive with the other penguins for food.