Popular seals undergo eye surgery

The seals are a popular attraction at Mooloolaba's Underwater World.
The seals are a popular attraction at Mooloolaba's Underwater World. john mccutcheon

THEY may still be able to turn on a show for fans but the years have taken their toll on two of UnderWater World's older residents.

But when you're as popular as seals Portia and Liette, it seems there's no limit to the health care you receive.

One of the world's leading veterinary ophthalmologists, Dr Carmen Colitz, spent a recent weekend on the Coast to perform ground-breaking surgery on the aquarium's oldest seals.

Liette, aged 23, and Portia, 22, underwent surgery to remove bilateral cataracts which are a common occurrence in mammals and frequently found in seals and sea lions.

Both seals have been part of the UnderWater World family for almost 20 years and are quite healthy, with Liette still doing seal kisses and Portia still involved in the seal show.

UnderWater World general manager, Tim Stonhill, said removal of the cataracts was aimed at increasing the quality of the seals' lives.

While they were the first eye surgeries performed at the facility, Dr Colitz is no stranger to performing surgery on mammals and has completed thousands of optical surgeries.

The founder of Aquatic Animal Eye Care is committed to understanding the ocular diseases that affect marine mammals, penguins and fishes both under human care and in the wild.

The operations on both Portia and Liette each took about four hours and were a complete success.

The seals will recuperate under the watchful care of trainers Julie Lightfoot and Katie Miers over the next three to four weeks.

Dr Colitz also operated on Nelson, the New Zealand Fur Seal who was rescued, rehabilitated and relocated from Adelaide in late 2010.

He had suffered trauma to one of his eyes which had caused loss of sight and the ongoing risk of infection.

The eye was successfully removed and already Nelson is showing positive signs.

“All in all, the operations were very successful,” Mr Stonhill said.

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