Munch, a 4-year-old Humboldt penguin, began behaving oddly at the Chester Zoo.
He was tripping. He couldn’t find fish in his pool. His swimming was slowing down. He was simply struggling to feed himself. All of it was strange for a penguin, especially one so young.
Vets discovered severely deteriorating eyesight caused by cataracts, leaving Munch with little vision in his left eye and none in his right.
“If a penguin can’t catch a fish then you know something is amiss,” zookeeper Sophie Bissaker said in a recent statement. “He did though, develop a clever little habit of pulling at my trouser leg to let me know that he hadn’t been able to get any fish, and this gave us an opportunity for closer inspection.”
That’s when zoo vets and experts hatched a plan to save his sight.
Veterinary ophthalmologist, Iona Mathieson, said this was the first penguin she operated on in 24 years in the field, but she had high hopes.
“I had researched penguin cataract surgery and the success rates were good, so we were confident that we could give Munch back his sight,” she said.
And that’s exactly what happened.
The surgery was a success.
Incredible news! 🙌 This little penguin has had his sight SAVED by expert vets. 🐧❤️— Chester Zoo (@chesterzoo) April 22, 2021
This is Munch’s remarkable story… pic.twitter.com/ZxkcPNleYG
Eye Vet donated equipment and other companies manufactured equipment very specific to Munch’s needs to carry out the procedure, the zoo explained.
After the procedure, Munch was kept away from the main penguin pool. At first, he recovered in the nursery pool and was soon joined by his life partner, Whurly.
“I think it was a huge comfort for Munch to know that he wasn’t going through it alone and had his partner by his side,” Bissaker added. “Munch really dotes on Whurly. Wherever she goes, he follows, so I’m sure it provided some much needed comfort. The pair are inseparable and had even their first chick, Leek, in 2019 – they’re a real tight family unit.”
They’re even incubating eggs now.
The successful procedure saved Munch’s sight, life and was a real morale boost for everyone at Chester Zoo.
Munch is still getting eye drops but he’s on the mend.
“He’s already swimming through the water faster, feeding with the group and waddling around his home with ease,” Bissaker added. “He’s a confident, happy little guy and a real fighter – which considering all he’s been through, is pretty amazing.”