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Saturday , November 17 2018
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Video+Story: El Paso Zoo To Be Featured on NatGeo Wild’s Animal ER

Juno, the El Paso Zoo’s Asian elephant, will be featured on an episode of the Animal ER program on the Nat Geo Wild network at 8 p.m. on Saturday, August 26.

The episode focuses on the cancer treatment the female elephant received in March. Dr. Lisa DiBernardi of Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists, Dr. Joe Impellizeri of Veterinary Oncology Services, and the El Paso Zoo’s animal care team successfully performed electrochemotherapy on Juno who was diagnosed with a malignant mass in her right mammary gland in January.

Animal ER is a documentary-style television program that follows the highly trained doctors and staff of Houston’s Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists as they perform high-end, specialized veterinary medicine on domestic and exotic animals.

A preview of the episode is available by clicking here.

El Paso Zoo: Juno’s Cancer Treatment Procedure Successful

Wednesday afternoon, Dr. Lisa DiBernardi of Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists, Dr. Joe Impellizeri of Veterinary Oncology Services, and the El Paso Zoo animal care team successfully performed electrochemotherapy on Juno, one of the zoo’s Asian elephants.

“We broke the tumor down into four quadrants and treated each quadrant with the electrochemotherapy,” said Dr. Impellizeri. “This is an extremely large tumor, the largest I’ve ever treated, but if you break it down into quadrants, you can treat it like four or five smaller tumors.”

“We are all glad the procedure was completed without any complications,” said Zoo Director, Steve Marshall. “Because Juno is a geriatric elephant, we were careful in selecting a course of action that minimized both risk and recovery time. This is a cutting edge procedure and is a great example of an accredited zoo’s capacity to provide professional and compassionate care for the well-being of its animals.”

Juno was put under general anesthesia for approximately an hour and a half. During the procedure, the tumor was infused with a chemotherapy drug and then treated with a small electric pulse that draws the chemotherapy into the cancer cells. Juno is alert and walking and will be monitored closely as she recovers from the procedure. The Zoo’s short term follow-up will be to monitor the site of the procedure.

Dr. Victoria Milne, El Paso Zoo veterinarian, says the next steps of Juno’s treatment will be dictated by her response to the electrochemotherapy. “Depending on how she reacts to this procedure, she may undergo another round of electrochemotherapy. This type of procedure, unlike invasive surgical procedures, allows for multiple treatments, so for now, we’ll monitor her and see how she does over the next few weeks.”

Juno is one of two Asian elephants at the El Paso Zoo. Asian elephants are endangered according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the classifying authority for species worldwide. Both of the Asian elephants at the El Paso Zoo are elderly, with ages beyond the average life expectancy for Asian elephants.

Juno was diagnosed with a malignant mass in her right mammary gland in January. After careful consideration due to her diagnosis and age, the Zoo decided working with Dr. DiBernardi and Dr. Impellizeri on this procedure was the best course of action for Juno.

El Paso Zoo’s Juno the Elephant will Receive Cancer Treatment

The El Paso Zoo has chosen a treatment protocol for Juno, the 49-year-old Asian elephant diagnosed with a malignant mass in her right mammary gland in January.

The zoo team discussed her case with elephant experts and veterinary specialists around the United States to determine the best course of action. Cancer is rare in elephants, and this type of tumor has never been previously reported.

With the assistance of Dr. Joe Impellizeri of Veterinary Oncology Services in New York and Dr. Lisa DiBernardi of Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists in Houston, Juno will receive a new tumor treatment that involves localized chemotherapy enhanced with electro-stimulation to the site, known as electrochemotherapy.

The procedure will take place later this month with Juno being put under general anesthesia for a short time. The tumor will then be infused with a chemotherapy drug and then treated with a small electric pulse to make it more susceptible to the chemotherapy drug.

This advanced procedure requires a much smaller amount of the chemotherapy drug and reduces the side effects that come with chemotherapy drugs in her system.

“We’re encouraged to have found a treatment option that is more aggressive than monitoring but without the risks that come with an invasive surgery or traditional chemotherapy,” said Zoo Veterinarian Dr. Victoria Milne.  “There is less risk with this treatment, but we’re still tackling this tumor.”

Given Juno’s size and age, there is always a certain level of risk when going under general anesthesia. This less invasive treatment also minimizes her time under anesthesia compared to surgery.

Dr. DiBernardi is double board-certified in veterinary medical and radiation oncology. “I am enthusiastic and honored to participate in Juno’s care at the El Paso Zoo,” DiBernardi said. “We are all optimistic the nontraditional approach will control her cancer while offering an excellent quality of life.”

Dr. Impellizeri, a board-certified veterinary oncologist, echoed her sentiments. “I am privileged to be involved in Juno’s cancer treatment. We are hopeful that this advanced, targeted cancer treatment with electrochemotherapy will control Juno’s cancer and provide a shorter recovery period.”

“We are fortunate to be working with Dr. DiBernardi and Dr. Impellizeri”, said Zoo Director Steve Marshall. “They are incredibly experienced veterinary oncologists, and we are glad they are available to provide Juno with this kind of care. Juno’s a member of our Zoo family, and this is just what we do when one of our animals needs treatment. We use our means and resources to provide care.”

Asian elephants are endangered according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the classifying authority for species worldwide. Both Asian elephants at the El Paso Zoo are elderly, with ages beyond the average life expectancy for Asian elephants.

Asian elephants are also one of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) SAFE species. SAFE stands for “saving animals from extinction,” and the program focuses the collective expertise within AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums and leverages their massive audiences to save species.

Savannah and Juno set to Predict Winner of Super Bowl LI on Saturday

The El Paso Zoo invites the public to watch the zoo’s elephants, Savannah and Juno, predict the winner of Super Bowl LI at 12:15 p.m. on Saturday, February 4, at the elephant exhibit.

Each elephant will cast a vote by selecting one of the two helmet-shaped piñatas placed in their exhibit by keepers.

“Enrichment activities like the Super Bowl predictions keep the animals stimulated mentally and physically,” said Animal Enrichment Coordinator, Carrie Trudeau. “We provide these types of activities every day to give the animals an opportunity to engage in natural behavior and assert control over their environment.”

This is the fourth year Savannah and Juno will be predicting the Super Bowl winners – will they choose the New England Patriots or the Atlanta Falcons?

“Savannah and Juno have been known to predict correctly in the past,” Trudeau said. “Even though they’re not making a conscious decision, they enjoy the activity.”

The El Paso Zoo invites the public to come out, wear their jerseys and join the fun.

El Paso Zoo’s Juno Diagnosed with Cancer

The animal care staff at the El Paso Zoo have received a biopsy report indicating a mass in 49-year-old Asian elephant Juno’s right mammary gland appears malignant, meaning the cells in the mass are exhibiting cancerous characteristics.

These results come after several months of close observation and multiple diagnostic procedures. Since receiving the biopsy results, zoo veterinarians have been actively researching safe treatment options and consulting with national elephant health experts to determine the best course of action.

“Cancer of any kind is extremely rare in elephants,” said Zoo Veterinarian Dr. Victoria Milne. “There is no record of a malignant mammary gland tumor ever reported in all of veterinary literature or in the collective veterinary knowledge.”

Since there is not any veterinary literature or research on mammary gland cancer in elephants, there is no way to predict if or how Juno’s mass will progress. Using existing techniques for determining the possible spread of the cancer, such as ultrasounds and X-rays, is not an option because of Juno’s size.

“When a human is diagnosed with cancer, treatment decisions are based on the results gathered from very specific test results and a long history of thousands of cases and outcomes,” said Milne. “For elephants, none of that information exists. So, while the mass looks malignant on a microscopic level, there is no way to be sure what will happen next and there is no previous treatment experience to guide us.”

As the El Paso Zoo veterinary staff continues investigating viable treatment options, some known factors they are continually taking into consideration are the high risks of anesthesia and surgery in geriatric elephants, and elephants’ frequent difficulty in healing from surgical procedures.

“Currently, there are no verified safe treatment options, and only one team has previously performed an elephant mammary gland removal,” said Milne. “No one knows how harmful this mass may or may not be to Juno’s health, but we do know that all of the traditional cancer treatment options could be highly damaging. Healing from this kind of invasive surgical procedure could take up to two years because elephant surgical wounds very frequently become infected and have delayed healing – and it could be incredibly difficult for Juno.”

The El Paso Zoo is taking a conservative approach while continuing to gather additional information. Because of the extreme rarity of cancer in elephants, national elephant experts, including Dr. Michele Miller, Association of Zoos & Aquariums Species Survival Program veterinary advisor, are being consulted. At this time, there are not any elephant health experts who are recommending surgical removal of the mass.

“Surgery in elephants is a serious decision. Healing is often slow and can result in other problems such as infection,” said Miller. “In Juno’s case, it seems prudent to take a more conservative approach to minimize any discomfort and complications associated with surgery.”

Zoo veterinarians and keeper staff are continuing to carefully monitor Juno’s overall health and wellbeing.

The Zoo’s veterinarians will be consulting further with veterinary cancer treatment specialists and the veterinarians who performed the one known previous elephant mastectomy procedure. These additional insights and recommendations will assist staff in creating the best care plan for Juno.

“Our main concern is Juno’s welfare, wellbeing and stress levels,” said El Paso Zoo Director Steve Marshall. “Each of these factors will be constantly taken into consideration when exploring potential treatment options.”

Asian elephants are endangered according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the classifying authority for species worldwide. Both of the Asian elephants at the El Paso Zoo are elderly, with ages beyond the average life expectancy for Asian elephants.

NASA’s Juno Spacecraft in Orbit Around Mighty Jupiter

After an almost five-year journey to the solar system’s largest planet, NASA’s Juno spacecraft successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit during a 35-minute engine burn. Confirmation that the burn had completed was received on Earth at 8:53 p.m. PDT (11:53 p.m. EDT) Monday, July 4.

“Independence Day always is something to celebrate, but today we can add to America’s birthday another reason to cheer — Juno is at Jupiter,” said NASA administrator Charlie Bolden. “And what is more American than a NASA mission going boldly where no spacecraft has gone before? With Juno, we will investigate the unknowns of Jupiter’s massive radiation belts to delve deep into not only the planet’s interior, but into how Jupiter was born and how our entire solar system evolved.”

Confirmation of a successful orbit insertion was received from Juno tracking data monitored at the navigation facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, as well as at the Lockheed Martin Juno operations center in Littleton, Colorado. The telemetry and tracking data were received by NASA’s Deep Space Network antennas in Goldstone, California, and Canberra, Australia.

“This is the one time I don’t mind being stuck in a windowless room on the night of the 4th of July,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “The mission team did great. The spacecraft did great. We are looking great. It’s a great day.”

Preplanned events leading up to the orbital insertion engine burn included changing the spacecraft’s attitude to point the main engine in the desired direction and then increasing the spacecraft’s rotation rate from 2 to 5 revolutions per minute (RPM) to help stabilize it..

The burn of Juno’s 645-Newton Leros-1b main engine began on time at 8:18 p.m. PDT (11:18 p.m. EDT), decreasing the spacecraft’s velocity by 1,212 miles per hour (542 meters per second) and allowing Juno to be captured in orbit around Jupiter. Soon after the burn was completed, Juno turned so that the sun’s rays could once again reach the 18,698 individual solar cells that give Juno its energy.

“The spacecraft worked perfectly, which is always nice when you’re driving a vehicle with 1.7 billion miles on the odometer,” said Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager from JPL. “Jupiter orbit insertion was a big step and the most challenging remaining in our mission plan, but there are others that have to occur before we can give the science team the mission they are looking for.”

Over the next few months, Juno’s mission and science teams will perform final testing on the spacecraft’s subsystems, final calibration of science instruments and some science collection.

“Our official science collection phase begins in October, but we’ve figured out a way to collect data a lot earlier than that,” said Bolton. “Which when you’re talking about the single biggest planetary body in the solar system is a really good thing. There is a lot to see and do here.”

Juno’s principal goal is to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter. With its suite of nine science instruments, Juno will investigate the existence of a solid planetary core, map Jupiter’s intense magnetic field, measure the amount of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere, and observe the planet’s auroras. The mission also will let us take a giant step forward in our understanding of how giant planets form and the role these titans played in putting together the rest of the solar system. As our primary example of a giant planet, Jupiter also can provide critical knowledge for understanding the planetary systems being discovered around other stars.

The Juno spacecraft launched on Aug. 5, 2011 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. JPL manages the Juno mission for NASA. Juno is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft. The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.

More information on the Juno mission is available at: http://www.nasa.gov/junoFollow the mission on Facebook and Twitter