A great horned owl living at the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens is recovering well after his eye surgery which took place two weeks ago. The owl, named Hal, is an Animal Ambassador, appearing in educational outreaches and programs at the Zoo, including shows and summer camps. The surgery was performed in partnership with the Zoo's veterinary and keeper teams and Dr. Heidi Denis of Animal Eye Associates, located in Maitland, FL.
In March of 2017, Hal's animal care staff noticed a problem with his right eye, which Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. James Bogan diagnosed as a luxated lens. "Lens luxation is when the lens breaks free from its attachments and floats freely in the eye," says Dr. Bogan. "This condition is painful and can lead to glaucoma, which is why surgery to remove the lens was performed as quickly as possible."
Hal has now been recovering for two weeks, and is expected to return to programs soon. The surgery was performed at Animal Eye Associates in Maitland by Dr. Denis, who has helped the Zoo with several animals in the past, including removing a cataract from a bald eagle. For the safety of all staff and the comfort of Hal, he was fully anesthetized during the procedure.
Hal came to the Central Florida Zoo in 2006 as an adult. He was acquired from a zoo in Louisiana that acquired him from a rehabilitation facility that was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. The damage to the facility was so extensive that all records were lost, but it is likely that Hal was injured in the wild after being hit by a car.
Program Animal Specialist Madison, who cares for Hal and assisted in the surgery, says "This is a common injury for owls, as they swoop down and often catch their prey on the ground, and are not always able to avoid speeding cars." His wing needed to be amputated, which was done prior to the destruction of the rehabilitation facility. The Zoo's veterinary team postulates that the trauma he suffered likely loosened his lens attachments, resulting in the lens luxation.
In the wild, a great horned owl with eye problems would likely struggle to survive. Owls are nocturnal, and rely on their excellent vision to hunt and navigate through the trees and their habitat. Owls have excellent night vision due to their extremely large eyes, which let in more light, and having more rod cells in their eyes. Rods are sensitive to light and movement, whereas cones (of which owls do not have very many) are sensitive to color.
After having his lenses removed, Hal will be farsighted, unable to see well up close. However, through the careful attention of our animal care staff, Hal will still be able to live comfortably, even with his impaired vision. He even accepted a meal the day after surgery!
For more information visit www.centralfloridazoo.org
or call 407.323.4450. The Zoo is located on I-4 Exit 104 in Sanford and is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
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