Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Beloved Orangutan on Jungle Island Diagnosed with Lymphoma, Veterinary and Medical Teams Rally to Help With Treatment


Jungle Island is sad to report that Peanut, an 8-year-old female twin orangutan and arguably one of the most famous animals in south Florida, has recently been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Although the news came as a surprise, Jungle Island has assembled a world-class team and is committed to giving Peanut the best care available.

For more information on Peanut, her treatment and progress, please visit www.jungleisland.com/peanut or Facebook.

Peanut’s diagnosis came after undergoing major abdominal surgery, performed by Miami veterinary specialists, with the help of Dr. Suzanne Thigpen, a board certified radiologist,  to remove what was thought to be a simple obstruction. When histopathology, the microscopic examination of tissues, revealed otherwise, the veterinary staff at Jungle Island turned to the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Division of Comparative Pathology, which specializes in wildlife. A UM team consisting of veterinary pathologists, a hematopathologist, radiologist, and oncologist confirmed the diagnosis and is providing a wealth of clinical information to implement a course of action.

The course of action takes into account all aspects of Peanut’s life, from the medical procedures to her social interactions and quality of life. Everything is being done to give Peanut the best possible chance to overcome this illness.

The team at Jungle Island chose to consult with human hematopathologists because Orangutans share approximately 96% of a human’s genetic make-up, which means that they are closer to humans than other animals. As a result, the treatment plan for Peanut is closer to that of what a human would receive, and Miller School hematopathologist Offiong Francis Ikpatt, M.D., and hemotolgist/oncologist Joseph D. Rosenblatt, M.D., are consulting in her care.

“Peanut is loved by so many people and we consider her part of our family, so we are really hoping that Peanut’s cancer treatment is successful. We just can’t imagine losing her,” said Linda Jacobs, Orangutan Caregiver at Jungle Island.

Peanut and her sister, Pumpkin, are 8-year-old fraternal twins, a rarity in the animal kingdom. These lovable girls have very different personalities and tastes in food. While Pumpkin is independent, introverted and quiet, Peanut is outgoing, energetic and demanding. The duo has been a part of the Jungle Island family since their birth and are some of the park’s most famous residents.

Jason Chatfield, DVM-General Curator at Jungle Island states, “As a twin myself, I know that any health challenges faced by Peanut, also affect her twin sister Pumpkin. So far, we have not observed any overt signs that Pumpkin is aware of Peanut’s crisis, but as a twin, I suspect she must have a sense of it.”

While the decision to come forward with Peanut’s diagnosis was a challenging one, Jungle Island hopes to further the awareness of cancer and its impact not just on humans but on animals as well.

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