A seal has had its sight restored by a veterinary ophthalmologist using specialist instruments usually used in human cases.

Veterinary ophthalmologist Jim Carter led the operation, which took place at Paignton Zoo.
Veterinary ophthalmologist Jim Carter carried out the procedure at Paignton Zoo.

Fourteen-year-old South American fur seal Grace has been at Living Coasts Zoo and Aquarium, in Torquay, for 12 years.

When she was a pup at Bristol Zoo, Grace developed a corneal ulcer in her right eye, which scarred. Investigations revealed her immune system was causing white patches in both eyes.

Repeat procedure

In 2011, slow-release implants were placed under each eyelid to help dampen her immune system. They were replaced in September 2014 and the procedure needed repeating this year.

Veterinary ophthalmologist Jim Carter and his resident Goran Kosec, of South Devon Referrals at Abbotskerswell Veterinary Centre, near Newton Abbot, carried out the examination and implant procedure, which took place at Living Coasts’ sister attraction Paignton Zoo.

Grace was checked and anaesthetised by zoo vet Christa van Wessem. VNs Celine Campana and Kelly Elford, and Living Coasts keeper Libor Mach were also present.

The old implants – tiny pieces of plastic impregnated with hormones – were removed and replaced with fresh ones. The wounds were sutured using thread 0.05mm in diameter, as fine as a human hair. All the instruments were standard ophthalmic instruments used in human surgical cases.

Recovering well

Living Coasts operations manager Clare Rugg said: “We knew the implants would run out in about three years. The operation was very quick – Jim simply replaced the old implants with fresh ones. But if he hadn’t done the work, Grace’s condition would have deteriorated again.

“The whole procedure went well. She ate as soon as she was back at Living Coasts. The next day Grace was clearly a little uncomfortable, but eating well and taking her medication.”

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