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Sea lion's remarkable recovery after major eye surgery

Blair Drummond Safari Park's Bella, 22, developed keratitis in both eyes.

Bella: Sea lion gives keeper Alex Wainwright a kiss.
Bella: Sea lion gives keeper Alex Wainwright a kiss. Andrew Milligan/PA

A sea lion is recovering well after undergoing a major eye operation at Blair Drummond Safari Park.

Californian sea lion Bella, 22, needed treatment after developing keratitis in both eyes.

The ocular disease is an inflammation of the cornea and is found in more than 60% of sea lions over 14 years old. But just weeks after surgery Bella is already on the mend.

Head of the sea lion department Nikki Morrison said: "Within two weeks of major surgery, she's eating and interacting well with the rest of the sea lion group.

"Bella has blown us all away with how resilient she is."

The main stage area was transformed into a veterinary theatre.
The main stage area was transformed into a veterinary theatre. Andrew Milligan/PA

Bella first underwent surgery in June 2016 after suffering a dislocation of the lens in her left eye induced by the disease. 

The surgery was successful, with Bella making a speedy recovery, but her eye health was not to last. 

Soon after, Bella's right eye lens followed the same deterioration, prompting a second operation in February.

The sea lion stage at Blair Drummond, which usually hosts educational presentations, was transformed into a veterinary theatre for the operation.

Nikki Morrison, head of the sea lion department, said: "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 anaesthetise Bella in the penning room, then safely carry her to the operating table using a stretcher.

"Both surgeries have been a great success and Blair Drummond's team of sea lion and veterinary specialists were all on-hand to assist."

Bella is eating and socialising well, and is almost ready to retire.
Bella is eating and socialising well, and is almost ready to retire. Andrew Milligan/PA

She is now eating well and socialising with the rest of the sea lion group. 

Although her vision is now limited, she can manoeuvre her surroundings comfortably.

Park bosses said that at the age of 22, Bella is starting to slow down and begin her transition into retirement. 

They hope to make this as comfortable and fulfilled a process as possible, and ensure that she continues to receive the best management and medical care.

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