Ravell Call, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — After having two cancerous masses removed from his chest in May, 21-year-old Eli underwent more surgery Tuesday to remove all traces of potentially cancerous tissue from his body.
The procedure reportedly went well, and though Eli may still be a little weak from the anesthesia, he should be back in his cage in no time.
Eli is a 200-pound orangutan who lives at Utah's Hogle Zoo.
Lindsay Sine, the community relations coordinator for the zoo, said that in the staff's research preparing for the surgery, they could not find a single documented case of breast cancer in a male orangutan.
"In his case it was super rare," Sine said. "Breast cancer in human males alone is rare so imagine how rare it was in a great ape."
Eli is already recovering quickly, Sine said. Procedures like the one he underwent Tuesday normally do not have a lasting effect on an animal's behavior.
"Just like any human when you go under, you wake up and are a little groggy," Sine said.
Primate supervisor Andy Henderson said there are "bedrooms" underneath the Ape House where Eli will stay until he's 100 percent lucid.
"Maybe tomorrow we might put him up on exhibit," Henderson said.
Sine said Eli will be monitored to make sure he has a healthy recovery from the procedure and that he remains cancer free.
For all the animals at the zoo, Sine said, cancer and other diseases are a concern and the staff is careful to monitor the animals for symptoms.
"They are just like us, they can get cancer," Sine said. "Sometimes it does happen and they can't tell us if they're feeling sick."
Eli's cancer was discovered during a routine physical, Henderson said. Trainers had noticed a nodule on the animal's chest and during the examination it was tested and found to be cancerous. Surgeons observed Eli's movement before the procedure and planned their incisions and sutures to have the least affect on his range of motion.
After he regains lucidity, Henderson said, Eli will likely have to be kept in a solitary display cage for a few days to keep his female companions from picking at his wounds.
Eli is one of three orangutans at the zoo and the only male. He has been at Hogle for years and at age 21 is considered an adult for the species but not yet elderly, Sine said. With the help of his recent surgeries, Eli should have many more years ahead of him.
"It was necessary just to make sure we got out everything that needed to come out," Sine said.
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