A critically endangered monkey that developed Cushing’s disease has been treated by a team of vets and zoo experts.

Paignton Zoo staff took the sick primate, known as JR (Jean-Robert), for a CT scan at a veterinary hospital in Somerset.

JR is a brown or variegated spider monkey, a breed from South America listed as critically endangered.

Zoo vet Jo Reynard, vet nurse Celine Campana, head keeper Craig Gilchrist and senior keeper Kate Jenner, took JR to Cave Veterinary Specialists, based near Wellington.

Jo explained: “Vets and keepers had concerns about JR for a while. Although he appeared well and active, there were subtle changes in his general condition that rang alarm bells.

“We took him for a CT scan as he had abnormally high cortisol levels in blood tests, which led us to believe he might have Cushing’s disease. This can be caused by a small tumour on either the adrenal gland or pituitary gland.”

JR is around 20 years old – in his prime for a spider monkey – and arrived at Paignton Zoo in 2010 from Zoo Frejus, in France. He is one of five brown spider monkeys in the zoo, sharing his enclosure with Luna, Lijuana, Sophie and Paru.

Consulting imaging specialist Tim Trevail carried out the scan and analysed the images. Computed tomography (or CT) uses computer-processed x-rays to produce virtual slices of specific areas of the scanned body.

Tim said: “We found JR has changes in his pituitary and adrenal glands consistent with an adenoma – a small benign tumour.”

Vets now believe the prognosis for JR is good. Jo added: “Cushing’s disease requires long term treatment – there are a few options that we’re reviewing. The important thing is that JR is our breeding male.

“The condition can suppress fertility and – as the species is critically endangered – we are very keen for him father offspring with our females.”

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