Jungle Island orangutan experiences health scare after overcoming cancer

Linda Jacobs and Peanut at Jungle Island.
Linda Jacobs and Peanut at Jungle Island. (Jungle Island)

MIAMI – Jungle Island’s 16-year-old orangutan, Peanut, has defied the odds once again, overcoming a health scare years after she beat her battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Peanut battled cancer in July 2012 and was nursed back to health thanks to her caretakers at Jungle Island in addition to the care and chemotherapy she received at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Miami veterinarian Dr. Don Harris discovered during a routine follow-up several weeks ago that Peanut was having renal issues, which could have led to complete kidney failure.

Peanut was given a special diet to help assist her renal function. The diet included “foods higher in water content, sharing her favorite grape juice and increasing her overall fluid intake,” a news release from Jungle Island stated.

Dr. Don Harris with Peanut.
Dr. Don Harris with Peanut. (Jungle Island)

Peanut is reportedly doing much better and a recent checkup showed great improvement. According to the news release, some of the parameters were back to normal levels.

“Detecting illness in orangutans can be difficult because their instinctual behavior is to hide symptoms; displaying any signs of weakness attracts predators. In other words, they go to great extremes to pretend to be okay, even when they are not well,” Harris said in a statement. “Because of the high-level of care provided at Jungle Island, they were able to detect a problem before Peanut overtly displayed symptoms, which most likely would have been too late to help her. Right now, we are regularly monitoring Peanut’s health and making sure she continues to thrive.”

Peanut was born in December 2003 and has a fraternal twin sister named Pumpkin.

According to staff members at Jungle Island, twins are rare in the animal kingdom and the sisters are very different.

Peanut is said to be outgoing, energetic and demanding while Pumpkin is more reserved and independent.

Jungle Island currently has a total of four orangutans.

“Much criticism is given to the keeping of animals in captivity, but the reality is that this animal would never have survived if she had been in her native environment,” Harris said. “Being in the extraordinary care of an establishment like Jungle Island has allowed Peanut to evade predators and overcome serious illnesses. She has a high-quality, enriched life and is truly loved by all who encounter her.”

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