A seal at Living Coasts has received ground-breaking medical treatment from zoo vets.
South American fur seal Grace has been given slow-release implants to control her immune system, which is causing problems with her eyes.
Living Coasts exhibit manager Clare Rugg told the Devon Week: “This is the first time this operation has been done in the UK on a seal.”
The slow release implants were placed under each eyelid to help dampen down her immune system, which is thought to be causing white patches on both eyes. The procedure was carried out at Living Coasts’ sister zoo, Paignton Zoo, which has full veterinary facilities including an operating theatre.
She was examined by zoo vet Sarah Chapman, assisted by vet nurses Emily Gorman and Kelly Elford, specialist veterinary ophthalmologists Jim Carter (from South Devon Referrals, based at Abbotskerswell Veterinary Centre) and Claudia Hartley (from the Animal Health Trust, Newmarket). Living Coasts keepers Stuart McGeachie and Maddy Millin were also present.
Jim Carter said: “This is a first for the UK – these implants have not been used in the UK for this type of case and never in a seal. We will not know if the treatment has worked for a while.
“We would hope to see an improvement in her comfort over the coming days, but it will be months before we know how the changes in the cornea are going. The implant will slowly release the drug to prevent inflammation over the next 2 to 3 years.”
In addition, Grace was given a full examination, blood was taken for routine testing, she was weighed and the ophthalmologists examined her eyes.
Sarah said: “The procedure went well. It lasted for around two hours. Two hours later Grace was swimming about and eating fish back at Living Coasts.”Nine-year-old South American fur seal Grace has been at Torquay’s coastal zoo for seven years. She developed a corneal ulcer in her right eye when she was a pup at Bristol Zoo and this left a scar. The vet team performed an examination of this scar tissue in October 2008.