Edinburgh Zoo penguins forced to undergo surgery after ingesting visitor litter

CAPS campaigners have raised concerns over news reports that the penguins at Edinburgh Zoo have been forced to undergo surgical procedures, reportedly in order to prevent their deaths, after ingesting litter and other objects discarded by zoo visitors.

Penguin Edinburgh

Penguins “saved” by zoo after zoo fails to prevent visitors throwing rubbish into penguin enclosures

Articles featured in the national press announced that “Penguins [were] saved by keyhole surgery at Edinburgh Zoo” confirming that 22 procedures have been carried out over the last four years to remove “stones, coins, gloves, lollipop sticks and children’s socks”. Another article stated that a penguin underwent surgery after swallowing a pair of batteries.

The vet who has carried out the procedures confirmed that:

“Usually it’s little sticks that people will poke through and the penguin will wolf it down before we can do anything”.

Said Liz Tyson, Director of the Captive Animals’ Protection Society:

“The PR spin on this story has been that the zoo vet has saved the penguins but what has been ignored in these articles is that it is the zoo itself that has negligently allowed this situation to arise. How many birds need to suffer operations, however non-invasive the technique, before the zoo takes action to safeguard the birds’ health from visitors that throw their litter and other objects into the enclosures? I think it shows an appalling lack of regard for the welfare of the animals in question”.

Just over a year ago, there was international outrage as a giraffe died in an Indonesian zoo after ingesting rubbish thrown into his enclosure. Closer to home, a hippo died at Dublin zoo in 2002 after eating a tennis ball thrown into her enclosure. A CAPS investigation in autumn last year showed drunk festival-goers at Port Lympne safari park throwing food and other objects into the primate enclosures and carp ponds. Other reports from around the world have described animals dying after objects, including drugs, have been thrown into their enclosures.

A CAPS spokesperson said that formal concerns will be raised with licensing authorities with regard to the apparent failure on the part of Edinburgh Zoo to protect the animals in this regard.

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