ROYAL OAK, Mich. (WXYZ) - The Detroit Zoo gorillas definitely have big hearts and so do the Detroit Zoological Society(DZS) veterinarian's.
Detroit Zoo has three gorillas currently undergo cardiac exams to monitor their heart health. Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of mortality among great apes living in captivity.
Chip, 15, Pende, 14, and Kongo, 13, first arrived from the Bronx Zoo in 2003. At that time, DZS took the opportunity to better understand and monitor the early stages of cardiac disease.
Recently, the zookeepers trained the gorillas using a step-by-step process to familiarize the animals with the equipment and reward them for allowing ultrasound to be performed.
First, zookeepers trained the gorillas to stand or sit in a position close to the enclosure mesh in order for veterinary staff to reach them with the ultrasound probe. Next, the gorillas were trained to remain calm and still while being touched lightly on the chest. Finally, the gorillas were introduced to an ultrasound probe coated with gel held by an ultrasound operator.
“After the first few nervous sessions, the gorillas began to enjoy the challenge of training and seemed very glad to see that it was time for their ultrasound exams,” said DZS Chief Veterinarian Dr. Ann Duncan.
To gather even more information, the DZS was invited to participate in a new component of the the Great Ape Heart Project (GAHP) based at Zoo Atlanta. Each gorilla underwent a procedure to implant a small recorder used to monitor human cardiac patients.
For the next three years, data from the implants will be downloaded and forwarded to the DZS’s human cardiology partners – including Dr. Ilana Kutinsky, a cardiac specialist from Beaumont Health System and national expert on primate cardiology – to help them better understand gorilla heart disease.
For Detroit Zoo hours log on to: www.detroitzoo.org.
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