A fairy penguin becomes the first of its kind to experience an MRI scan

Chaka becomes the world's first penguin to experience an MRI scan. He showed the world that, similar to cats and dogs, penguin problems also matter and deserve to be diagnosed.
Rupendra Brahambhatt
Chaka the fairy penguin who underwent MRI.
Chaka the fairy penguin who underwent MRI.

SEA LIFE Weymouth

Veterinarians often perform MRI scans of cats, dogs, and other pet animals to diagnose medical conditions, but for the first time, a penguin has been examined using MRI in the U.K. 

The penguin’s name is Chaka. He’s an inhabitant of Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park and belongs to the fairy penguin species, which represents the smallest penguins in the world. Little fairy penguins are originally found in New Zealand and Australia. 

Interestingly, Chaka and his group of tiny blue penguins at Sea Life also happen to be the only fairy penguin colony you can find in the whole of Europe. 

Why did Chaka undergo an MRI? 

Chaka was facing body balance issues while walking. His caretakers also noticed that he was sometimes a bit wobbly on his wings. However, they weren’t sure what was causing it, so they decided to have him diagnosed.

“After experiencing some occasional wobbling the team decided to take Chaka to Cave Veterinary Specialists for an MRI to investigate his balance issues. For the team at Cave, this was something totally new,” said the Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park team. 

The veterinarians at Cave monitored Chaka’s body throughout the scan, and they even took additional measures to keep the penguin comfortable during the test. 

For a successful MRI scan, a patient also needs to hold his or her breath for some time. Since Chaka was a penguin, he outperformed dogs and cats at this task. As a result, the scan was done without any complications.

While commenting on the results of the MRI test, the Sea Life team added, “The scan went well and showed nothing of concern for him and he continues to live an otherwise healthy life feeding and interacting with his fellow colony.” 

World’s first penguin MRI scan will open new doors

The doctors and caretakers of Chaka believe that the data obtained from the MRI could reveal new insights about fairy penguins. A report from the International Penguin Conservation Work Group suggests that there are only 350,000 to 600,000 fairy penguins left in the world, and their numbers are declining in some of their natural habitats.

The information collected from the MRI scan might help conversation groups to design better protection strategies for these birds. Moreover, it could also allow us to predict how the bodies of the little penguins adapt to changes in the environment.

Hopefully, this one-of-a-kind MRI will pave the path for novel and positive developments for all penguins species. “Chaka has become a penguin pioneer. Although his own waddle may still be a little wobbly, he has made great strides for the world of veterinary science and the penguin world,” said Kico Iraola, curator at Sea Life Park.

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