Click here to learn more.
Most people know that heart disease kills an astounding number of humans each year. But did you know that it's also the No. 1 killer of orangutans, gorillas and other apes living in captivity?
Enter the Great Ape Heart Project, a revolutionary undertaking led by Dr. Hayley Murphy, DVM, director of veterinary services at Zoo Atlanta, to get to the bottom of why cardiovascular disease affects many great apes.
Vetstreet sat down with Dr. Murphy to discuss the important initiative, which could someday even help humans with faulty tickers.
A. Dr. Murphy: "Heart disease is important because, in captivity, it's a major cause of mortality. All of these species are endangered or critically endangered, and when we're managing them in captivity, it's our responsibility as caretakers and veterinarians to protect their health and welfare. We're investigating why it happens, if it's something that we can prevent and how we can treat it."
A. "That's a really great question. When we started looking at gorillas over 10 years ago, we made some assumptions that it was a geriatric issue, but that turns out not to be the case. It's not necessarily an age-related disease in captivity because we do see it occur in younger animals as well.
"The other question we get asked is whether it occurs in the wild, and we don't really have great answers yet. We know from looking at animals who have died in the wild that it does occur, but in very small numbers — only two to three animals have ever been documented to have it in the wild. But we don't know whether that's because we haven't found a lot of dead gorillas with bodies in good enough shape to get an answer. In the wild, there may be a lot more who die that we never find, so percentage-wise, we can't say very much. It's still a big mystery, and we're struggling to answer that question."
A. "In gorillas, we have seen changes in their hearts as young as 13 to 15 years of age; a male gorilla can live upwards of 40 to 50 years, so that's pretty young. Between 13 and 23 — mid-puberty to young adulthood — we see a lot of affected animals. And it's usually males."
A. "Right. And it certainly caused a lot of alarm when we started seeing this in younger animals. It's kind of a double whammy — not only does it affect your existing population, but if you're taking out genetically valuable animals at the height of their reproductive age, that's a double hit for the population."
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Thank you for subscribing to Petwire. Look for the latest newsletter each Wednesday.
The Pruchnick family says their three rescued Pit Bulls saved their lives by alerting them
to a fire in their home.
Are you a fan of big dogs? According to
vet professionals, new owners should
stay away from these large breeds.
During the course of their day, vets do a
number of unexpected things like taking
animals home and creating pet…
Feeding pets and people from the same
dishes can be risky for you and your pup.
Dr. Marty Becker explains why.
An expert explains which protein
sources are best for pets and how much
of it cats and dogs need to consume.
Thanks to his webbed feet, the Spanish
Water Dog has a knack for swimming,
boating and playing in water.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.