Two sea lions and a harbor seal are recovering in the Sarah Allison Steffee Center for Zoological Medicine after successful eye surgery at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo over the last two days.
The Zoo’s California sea lions ‘Buzz’ and ‘Mikey,’ and harbor seal ‘Nemo,’ were operated on by a team of highly trained veterinary specialists including ophthalmologist Dr. Carmen Colitz, of Aquatic Animal Eye Care in Florida, marine mammal specialist Dr. Mike Renner, formerly of Sea World, and veterinary anesthesiologist Dr. James Bailey, of Innovative Veterinary Medicine. They were assisted by Cleveland Metroparks Zoo veterinarians Dr. Mike Selig and Dr. Albert Lewandowski and members of the Zoo’s veterinary and animal care team.
The surgical team felt the three procedures were successful. Buzz, Mikey and Nemo will be carefully monitored while they recuperate off exhibit for a minimum of three weeks or until they are fully healed.
Dr. Selig spent months coordinating the many challenges associated with the procedures to ensure optimal pre- and post-surgery care.
Eye problems are very common in zoo pinnipeds (seals, sea lions and walruses), however, the surgeries to correct them are considered delicate because pinnipeds are prone to negative reactions to anesthesia and are susceptible to post-surgery infections. Zoo staff prepared the animals for their procedures by carefully training them to accept injections and eye drops, breathe into an anesthesia mask and become comfortable in an enclosure without a pool.
“The success of these procedures is due in no small part to the dedication our keepers and vet staff showed in getting the animals ready for their operations,” said Dr. Selig. “Their work, combined with the expertise of our three visiting specialists, gave us the best possible chance for success.”
Buzz, who is approximately 3 years old and weighs 120 pounds, had cataracts when he arrived at the Zoo in 2010. His condition worsened recently, but the operation should restore some vision in his right eye. His left eye had a detached retina, a complication of his cataracts. The procedure removed the cataract, but couldn’t restore vision in that eye. It did greatly reduce the inflammation in his left eye and will help avoid future problems.
Mikey, who is 21 and weighs 330 pounds, also suffered from cataracts in his right eye. Nemo, 25 years old and approximately 190 pounds, had lens surgery on both of his eyes.
Currently, the Zoo has three sea lions and three harbor seals.
For more information, visit clemetzoo.com or call (216) 661-6500.
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