Moray eel at capital zoo gets fresh lease of life

Veterinarians performing emergency surgery on the moray eel at the zoo in the city.  

A 600-g moray eel exhibited in the aquarium at the city zoo has got a new lease of life.

The female eel that had been attacked by a fellow eel and left severely injured has a shot at staying alive, courtesy the zoo veterinarian Jacob Alexander.

On Saturday morning, the eel that was exhibited in a glass tank had been found by a keeper with its stomach bitten and the contents, including internal organs, hanging out.


Dr. Alexander who was informed saw the need for emergency surgery to put back the stomach contents inside the fish. The challenge though was how to operate upon fish that live in water. Special anaesthetic and equipment had to be procured for the surgery.

While giving the nod for the surgery, zoo director Abu S. had also asked Dr. Alexander to look into whether such a procedure had been performed on fish earlier. Two Chengannur veterinary surgeons Tittu Abraham and Amritha Lakshmi K.U. who had done their internship training at the city zoo and had prior experience with the procedure came on board immediately and reached the city to assist Dr. Alexander.

The three veterinarians performed the surgery the same afternoon. The fish tank was moved into the operation theatre and the eel then placed in a tray placed on the operation table. One bucket was filled with normal water and another with anaesthesia. When the need to increase anaesthesia was felt, anaesthetic water was pumped and when it was felt to be adequate, normal water would be pumped in a bid to manage vital signs.

After nearly two-and-a-half hours of surgery, the eel was released into the water, and after the anaesthesia wore off, it displayed righting reflex and was soon swimming. The eel was coming along fine on Sunday, Dr. Alexander said. However, it could not be said to be out of the woods yet as its stomach and internal organs had prolapsed during the attack. Though vital organs mostly remained intact, its ovary, with plenty of small eggs, had to be removed before the eel could be stitched up again, he said.


Dr. Alexander said the surgery had shown that such procedures could be performed, and more specialisation should be made available to facilitate these.

It also underlined that like any other animal, a fish experiencing pain needed relief. However, such treatments or surgeries were not frequent. Neither were these taught to students in veterinary colleges. It was high-time that training was given to students in such surgical procedures so that the suffering of fish and other creatures too could be alleviated, he said.

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Printable version | Apr 18, 2021 5:15:29 PM |

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