NEW ORLEANS, La. (CBS Local) – Acupuncture has been a common practice among humans for centuries, but now humans are using acupuncture to give a penguin a new lease on life.
Veterinarian Cyndi Benbow and workers at Audubon Aquarium of the Americas are using the carefully placed needles to help their friend: a 36-year-old African penguin named Ernie.
Ernie was hatched on New Year’s Day in 1982 and has become the third-oldest penguin raised in captivity. The ancient bird began to suffer from debilitating arthritis and has gone blind in one eye.
The aquarium staff in New Orleans decided to try the alternative treatment to help the senior penguin swim again. Ernie’s 10-minute sessions with Dr. Benbow have reportedly given the penguin his mobility back.
“I’m just so overwhelmed right now watching this bird,” Audubon senior aviculturist Tom Dyer told The New Orleans Advocate. “You know, that is just the best. It’s emotional. It’s … wow! Thank you, Dr. Benbow.”
“Watching his feet in a better position and watching him walk better and watching his life become more comfortable means the world,” Dyer added.
The veterinarian who got Ernie back on his feet has reportedly been performing acupuncture on everything from lizards to horses since 2004. “It’s always good to have a challenge,” Benbow said. “Not that many people can say, ‘I did acupuncture on a penguin and really helped him out.'”
The New Orleans staff added that they’re not the only professionals using acupuncture to treat animals, but the practice is not very widespread.
According to CBS Chicago, pet owners have also started turning to alternative medicine to give their furry friends new life. Dog owners are trying everything from acupuncture, to hydrotherapy, to cannabis-infused treats to treat pain and inflammation.