Good news for Garbanzo.
The young cheetah who took up residence at the ABQ BioPark Zoo this fall and underwent surgery for oral cancer, is now cancer free.
Garbanzo and his two brothers, Pinto and Borracho, were born at the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Texas in May 2017. A sarcoma in his jaw was discovered while there and he was operated on before coming to Albuquerque.
Tests showed that there were still some cancer cells remaining in his jaw around the margins of the surgical site, and BioPark officials knew when they took possession of the animal that they would have to do another surgery.
That surgery was done in October and Garbanzo was back in his habitat area the next day, eating, drinking, playing with his brothers and seeming none the worse for the wear.
Earlier this week BioPark Zoo spokesman Greg Jackson announced that tissue samples removed during the surgery and examined by a pathologist were determined to be cancer free.
Carol Bradford, the senior veterinarian at the ABQ BioPark Zoo, said following the October surgery that cancer “is not uncommon in older zoo animals” but is somewhat surprising to encounter in such a young cheetah.
The three young cheetahs joined the zoo’s resident matriarch cheetah, 16-year-old Annabelle, who spends most of her time in retirement in her behind-the-scenes living quarters. In the wild, cheetahs live from six to eight years, and in accredited zoos they live an average of 11.6 years, said zoo mammal curator Erin Flynn.
Cheetahs have been clocked running at 70 mph for brief periods of time, making them not only the fastest of all the large cats, but the fastest of all land animals, Flynn said.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature classifies the cheetah as a “vulnerable” species, with populations decreasing due to habitat loss, prey reduction and killing by humans, largely to protect livestock. Only about 7,000 remain in the wild.