Anterior gastrointestinal tract obstruction by a foreign body has been reported in several avian species, most commonly in captive birds. It is often associated with behavioral issues that lead to compulsive consumption of bedding materials or bright moving objects. In penguins, foreign bodies are most commonly identified at necropsy and often are found in the ventriculus because of anatomic characteristics of the species. A captive African black-footed penguin (Spheniscus demersus) was diagnosed with a ventricular foreign body. The anatomic and physiologic differences that should be taken into account when surgically removing a ventricular foreign body in a penguin are described. These differences include the caudal location in the coelom and the large size of the ventriculus in proportion to the penguin's body size; the presence of a simple stomach, uniform in thickness and lacking muscular development; a simple gastrointestinal cycle (gastric contraction); and variability in pH of stomach contents. No complications were observed after surgery, and the bird recovered completely. Management of foreign bodies in birds should be based on the clinical signs of the individual bird, the species affected and its anatomic characteristics, the nature and location of the foreign body, available tools, and the preference and experience of the surgeon. This particular case demonstrates that the most indicated and preferred method is not always possible and that knowledge of biologic, anatomic, and physiologic differences of the species may allow the use of an alternative and more invasive approach with favorable outcomes.
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