Dec 10

SeaWorld San Diego Returns Harbor Seal with Cataracts to the Ocean

I love SeaWorld San Diego’s mission to return rescued and rehabilitated animals to the wild. Looking on as sea turtles, seabirds, sea lions and seals get reacquainted with the ocean is quite a sight.

Recently SeaWorld San Diego’s animal rescue team and veterinarians, and the SeaWorld-Hubbs Researcher Institute returned Iris, a 47-pound female harbor seal, to the Pacific Ocean with restored vision. Iris was rescued by SeaWorld on San Diego’s South Mission Beach on June 13 where she was found dehydrated, malnourished and five pounds underweight. SeaWorld’s rescue team of animal caretakers noticed she had cataracts in both her eyes during an initial exam. That revelation led the team to determine Iris was functionally blind and unable to catch fish, which presumably meant her lack of vision prevented her from foraging for food.

SeaWorld veterinarian Dr. Hendrik Nollens consulted with veterinary ophthalmologist, Dr. Doug Esson, who confirmed Iris’ diagnosis and agreed to perform eye surgery. On Aug. 1, Dr. Esson removed the cataracts from Iris’ eyes in a procedure that’s only sporadically been performed in seals. In this case, several particularly cutting-edge techniques as well as state-of-the-art equipment were employed during the successful surgery. After three months of healing and a great deal of TLC at SeaWorld’s animal care center, the estimated 7-month-old young animal returned to the sea with sufficient vision, 30 pounds heavier and able to catch live fish and forage for food on her own.

Take a look at her insightful ordeal, which includes an attached radio satellite transmitter that’ll allow SeaWorld-Hubbs researchers to monitor her movements at sea, in this extraordinary, heartfelt feature of rescue, rehabilitation and return:

To learn more about Iris and other SeaWorld animal rescue, rehabilitation and return stories, like us (SeaWorld San Diego) on Facebook or visit the SeaWorld Rescue Plaza on the northwest side of Shamu Stadium the next time you visit SeaWorld San Diego.