Ocean Park vets are top professionals and do outstanding work

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 February, 2016, 5:16pm
UPDATED : Monday, 29 February, 2016, 5:16pm

I refer to the report (“Two seals die, a panda escapes”, February 25) which quote the opinions of Dr Samuel Hung Ka-yiu, chairman of the Dolphin Conservation Society.

While I am no defender of marine mammals in captivity, I am a veterinarian who has worked with varied captive wild animal species for more than 15 years. I have been fortunate enough to work with the vets of Ocean Park.

They donated their time, free of charge, as consultant physicians in a number of anaesthetic procedures involving sea lions and seals in the Middle East.

While I cannot comment on the death of the seal cub I do feel obliged to defend the veterinary staff at Ocean Park regarding the case of “anaesthetic death”.

My first-hand experience of their work has left me in no doubt that they are outstanding professionals in their field, and no chances are taken when undertaking a general anaesthetic in an animal under their care.

I am dismayed by comments allegedly made by Dr Hung in an online report [not the South China Morning Post] that “veterinarians should have been aware of the correct dosage” of anaesthetic.

It is important to understand the physiological risks involved in marine mammal anaesthesia. The anaesthesia of any living entity, especially a wild animal, involves risk that is complicated by a huge number of environmental and biological factors and how this risk is mitigated demands the skill and experience of the physician.

The fact that many routine pre-anaesthetic assessment procedures that would be considered “run of the mill” in humans cannot be performed in wild animals without anaesthesia further compounds this risk.

Marine mammals are among the most challenging of all animals to anaesthetise and the commitment of Ocean Park to their animals means that anaesthesia of these species is only undertaken when absolutely necessary.

It is my opinion that any unfortunate incidents related to deaths under anaesthesia at Ocean Park are in no way related to the skills of the veterinary staff in the facility.

While I understand the growing public resentment towards marine mammal exhibits, I can see no reason why highly skilled members of the veterinary profession should be used as scapegoats in this increasingly heated debate.

Christopher Lloyd, Dubai