Brought in by the Detroit Zoo, the 27-year-old, bright, rainbow-colored bird had recently lost her former zip – diving and swooping through the air to catch bugs in mid-flight – because she could no longer see. She spent her days sitting at the bottom of an aviary, crawling up the cage enclosure to get to her food and then crawling back down to sit on the floor.
Yesterday, Dr. Susette Aquino, a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist at Michigan Veterinary Specialists (MVS), a BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospital, performed surgery on the Roller. “To be able to work with the zoo to restore not only the bird’s vision, but its quality life is so fulfilling,” said Dr. Aquino.
The cataract was removed from the left eye using a minimally invasive method commonly used on dogs called phacoemulsification. The procedure involves a tiny incision through which a small, ultrasonic instrument is placed in the eye. The instrument generates 40,000 minute vibrations per second to fragment the cataract. Once the cataract material is broken up it can be vacuumed out of the eye.
Shortly after awaking from anesthesia, the Roller was taken back to the zoo where she will recover with the help of eye drops and tender loving care by her keeper. She should be fully recovered within 14 days and seeing better than she has in a long time.
The lilac-breasted roller is found in the open woodlands and savanna of sub-Saharan Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. They perch at the highest vantage point and are extremely defensive of their nest, fighting off raptors and other birds.
MVS has been providing pro-bono services for the zoo for the last 20 years. Cases that MVS doctors have treated include: diagnosis of an underlying liver condition in a Siberian tiger that led to a diet change and extending the tiger’s life, recovered eyesight of several blind penguins by cataract removal, and surgery on the hip of a grizzly bear which restored its range of motion.