Belfast Telegraph

Penguins saved by keyhole surgery

A vet has said he uses keyhole surgery to remove lollipop sticks and coins swallowed by inquisitive penguins.

Romain Pizzi is an expert in minimally-invasive surgery at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland which runs Edinburgh Zoo, home to more than 70 Gentoo penguins.

Mr Pizzi has performed 22 operations in four years on birds that have swallowed everything from stones and coins to gloves, lollipop sticks and children's socks.

Even leaves with woody stalks can cause complications if they find their way into a penguin's intestine.

Mr Pizzi, 39, can locate and often remove the foreign items during endoscopic surgery performed through a very small hole. This helps ensure the birds recover quickly and allows them back into the water.

He said: "Usually it's little sticks that people will poke through and the penguin will wolf it down before we can do anything.

"A penguin's intestine is very compact, with sharp angles, and even something like an oak leaf can cause problems."

The vet, who lives in Penicuik in Midlothian, spoke at the 8th International Penguin Conference in Bristol earlier this month.

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