Miami orangutan battles cancer

Jungle Island ape to undergo chemotherapy

Published On: Jul 24 2012 06:57:59 PM EDT   Updated On: Jul 24 2012 07:20:49 PM EDT
MIAMI -

An orangutan at Miami's Jungle Island has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and will soon begin chemotherapy.

Peanut and her twin sister Pumpkin have been one of the main exhibits at Jungle Island since a few months after their birth.

But in May, 8-year-old Peanut became very sick and needed to undergo surgery. Veterinarians said she suffered from gas in the intestines from an obstruction.

"It was pretty severe and she was going to die if she didn't have surgery," said Jason Chatfield with Jungle Island.

Veterinary specialists carefully removed an abdominal obstruction from her intestines. 

After the surgery, they had to use distraction methods, including painting her nails and putting fake stitches on her arm, to prevent Peanut from picking at the sutures.

"You wouldn't know it except for her shaved belly where they did the surgery. It's still a little bare, and she still likes to show if off to everybody," said Chatfield.

But a few weeks later, veterinarians at Jungle Island received a grim diagnosis. Lab results showed Peanut had stage 1 intestinal B-cell lymphoma.

"It's an aggressive disease. It's an aggressive type of cancer and we're going to treat it equally aggressive," said Chatfield. "Peanut is a very special animal."

More than a dozen pathologists and oncologists decided Peanut's next step was to undergo chemotherapy. They said her prognosis was good.

"The good thing is she's young, she can fight off a lot of stuff and we caught it early. Any orangutan is important, but this one has a special place in our hearts at Jungle Island," said Chatfield.

Peanut's chemotherapy begins next week and is expected to take a few months.

She will remain on exhibit at Jungle Island unless she's having a tough day.