Tess – the world’s oldest African penguin Undergoing treatment at Colorado State University
Colorado State University

Tess – the world’s oldest African penguin was recently treated by Colorado State University veterinarians for an aggressive form of skin cancer on her face. The 40-year-old resident of  the Pueblo Zoo happens to be part of a species that is dying out.

The tumor was discovered a couple months ago. Zookeepers noticed injuries around Tess’s eyes that failed to heal after a minor squabble over a nest box. The tumor was cancerous, and CSU had the technology to remove it.

Tess’s treatment at CSU involved veterinarians, residents, interns, staff and students from exotics, oncology, radiology, anesthesiology and other specialty units.  A CT scan confirmed a 1-by-1-by-.5 centimeter tumor, about the size of a pinto bean, on the right side of Tess’s face. Dr. Jamie Custis, a radiation oncologist, hoped the small tumor could be mitigated with a single 21-minute, 59-second dose of electronic brachytherapy – a form of radiation delivered with state-of-the-art technology, which focuses beams so well that nearby tissues and organs are not harmed.

In the two weeks since her treatment, the radiation has begun to cause the tumor tissue to die and slough. It will be weeks before doctors see the maximum response of the radiation and can fully gauge its effectiveness.

There's No Place Like Home

After two weeks of isolated recuperation, Tess was released back into her habitat at the Pueblo Zoo. She returned to her 50-degree exhibit with her 33-year-old mate, Mongo.

Tess the Penguin Reunited with Flock
Colorado State University

CSU put together this YouTube video that helps tell Tess' story:

[Colorado State University]

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