Bella receives veterinary attention to help her vision
Just like us, sea lions bodies deteriorate with age and at the ripe old age of 22, one of the parks oldest and dearly loved animals, Bella, the California Sea Lion, sadly developed Keratitis in both of her eyes.Keratitis is an ocular disease found in over 60% of sea lions over 14 years old, and 100% of sea lions over 26. To make sure Bella had the best care available, Blair Drummond Safari Park brought in Europe’s top veterinarian specialists; Ophthalmologist, Claudia Hartley, and International Zoo Vet Group’s, Andrew Greenwood, who were called upon to relieve Bella of her debilitating predicament.
Bella underwent surgery back in June 2016, due to lens luxation in her left eye induced by the disease, causing Bella to require the lens to be completely removed; the surgery was successful and Bella thankfully made a speedy recovery. Close monitoring of the sea lions eyes and their functionality is routinely carried out by our sea lion and vet team, and sadly, the right eye lens soon followed the same deterioration, and Bella required a second operation.On the morning of the 27th of February, the sea lion stage, which is usually host to fantastic, educational presentations, was set for major veterinary theatre; as Head of the Sea Lion department, Nikki Morrison goes on to explain:
The stage was the best place to carry out the surgery; it gave us the most room and lighting for all concerned. We were able to anesthetise Bella in the penning room then safely carry her to the operating table using a stretcher. I have great confidence in Claudia and Andrew; they are the leading experts in the field. Both surgeries have been a great success, and Blair Drummonds team of Sea Lion and Veterinary specialist were all on-hand to assist. Claudia and Andrew were very clear about explaining each step of the process, enabling us to follow the operation. We remain in contact and keep everyone updated on Bella's recovery.Bella has blown us all away with how resilient she is. Within 2 weeks of major surgery, she’s eating and interacting well with the rest of the Sea Lion group, and although her vision is limited, it appears she can actually still see and manoeuvre her surroundings reasonably comfortably.”
The oldest recorded California Sea Lion in the wild was 17 (Mate, 1979), so at twenty two years, Bella is starting to slow down and begin her transition into retirement. Blair Drummond's aim is to make this as comfortable and fulfilled as possible, and ensure that she continues to receive the best management and medical care.