Sunday 17 December 2017

Eye test for four-tonne Duchess

Duchess, the 40-year-old elephant, undergoing an eye examination at Paignton Zoo
Duchess, the 40-year-old elephant, undergoing an eye examination at Paignton Zoo

When an animal weighs four tonnes even doing a simple eye test can be a tricky job.

But for one of Paignton Zoo's African elephants it was a necessary check-up.

Forty-year-old Duchess underwent an ultrasound examination by eye specialists after contracting cataracts which left her completely blind in one eye and with limited vision in the other.

Jim Dicks, keeper at the Devon zoo, said: "We got Duchess used to having a bit of gel around her eye and to the idea of having a probe close to her eye. She is a quick learner. She gets a reward afterwards so it is all very positive and we can repeat the exercise in the future as necessary."

The eye test was carried out by Claudia Hartley, head of small animal ophthalmology at the Animal Health Trust, based in Suffolk.

Ms Hartley worked with veterinary specialist ophthalmologist Jim Carter, from South Devon Referrals, based at Abbotskerswell Veterinary Centre. The pair have been monitoring Duchess for some time.

Sarah Chapman, veterinary associate at the zoo, said: "We wanted to check that the lens in the right eye was still in place and not moving around the eye, which could cause a blockage and pain.

"We have been training Duchess for this procedure for the last few weeks as we didn't want to have to sedate her. This has taken many hours of keeper and vet time, we didn't want to rush things and put her off."

Anaesthetic drops were put in Duchess's eye so she could not feel anything, then the ultrasound probe, with gel on the end, was placed directly on to the cornea.

Ms Chapman said: "The good news is that the ultrasound showed us that the lens in the right eye is in place, though we have put her on some more eye drops to help keep the pressure down."

Press Association

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