PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Two male snow leopard cubs were born at the Philadelphia Zoo this past June. But not long after the brothers made their debut, zookeepers noticed one of the cubs had a hair in his eye and some irritation. It turns out it was a defect that needs fixing.

It’s called a coloboma — a genetic deformity, where the center of each eyelid is missing. It causes eye irritation and could lead to infection.

When zookeepers discovered that endangered cubs Kimti and Dian had the problem, they decided to perform corrective surgery.

But Director of Animal Health for the Zoo, Keith Hinshaw, says they had to be extra careful.

“If the cubs come back or smell differently, sometimes the mother can become upset and reject them or even attack them.”

Working with Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine, Hinshaw says zookeepers spent weeks preparing the cubs for the three-hour process, which cuts out the defective portion of the eyelid. The good news: he says last week’s surgery went well and the cubs should be ready for the public by November, “They’re playful, active, eating great.”

Reported by Cherri Gregg, KYW Newsradio 1060

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