By BRENNA R. KELLY
The Kentucky Enquirer
NEWPORT, Ky. (AP) - A penguin being aggressively treated for
cancer has died at the Newport Aquarium, but skin cancer was not
what led to Tica's demise.
Aquarium officials say they had to put down the 16-year-old
chinstrap penguin Feb. 11 after he could no longer eat, stand or
swim because of a degenerative spinal disease.
"It's obviously disheartening," said aquarium spokesman Rodger
Pille. "Everyone around had a lot of faith and were really excited
that it looked like we were doing a really good thing, then to find
this other ailment, it was definitely disheartening."
Medical staffs at zoos and aquariums nationwide had been paying
close attention to treatment of Tica, a two-foot-tall, 8-pound
"All reports showed it looked like those treatments were
successful," he said. "The size of the tumor and the infection
went down considerably; we were really encouraged."
The penguin received 17 radiation treatments, said Peter Hill,
director of veterinary services at the aquarium. Two weeks later,
doctors noticed Tica was having trouble standing up. In a CT scan,
Hill found a lesion on Tica's spinal cord that was causing his
vertebrae to disintegrate. Hill suspects that it was a cancerous
lesion, but the pathology is not back yet.
Hill doesn't think the potentially cancerous lesion was related
to the skin cancer.
"It was quite a surprise to see this develop shortly after the
end of the radiation therapy," he said. "We consider the
radiation therapy a success ... this was a secondary problem that
he may have had developing all along that we were just unaware
Tica slowly became paralyzed. Staff at the aquarium built a
bouncy seat that allowed Tica to eat standing up, but ultimately
the animal had to be put down, Hill said.
"We determined that that quality of life was not something that
he should have," Hill said. "He was in hospice care for short
time and then we elected euthanasia."
Tica's skin cancer was first discovered in September when
trainers noticed an abscess on Tica's tail. Officials said Tica was
thought to be one of the first penguins to be get aggressive
treatment for cancer.
"We have to remember that Tica has already contributed greatly
to the scientific community worldwide," Pille said. Because of the
publicity surrounding Tica's treatment the aquarium was getting
calls from zoos and aquariums all over the world.
Tica's case will give veterinarians insight into problems in
aging penguins, Hill said. He anticipates journal articles and
other studies of Tica's case.
"Tica is quite a hero here," he said.
Tica, who arrived at the aquarium in Nov. 20, 2008, was the
first chinstrap penguin - known for the black line under the neck -
hatched in the United States to live to adulthood.
Information from: The Kentucky Enquirer, http://www.nky.com
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)