Apes in captivity, particularly males and those that are progressing in age, have been seriously challenged with heart problems such as cardiomyopathy, valvular diseases, and even aortic aneurysms. Heart health statistics for apes in captivity are actually very similar to those of humans. But what causes these heart diseases in apes? Is it genetics? Is it the more sedentary life of a captive environment? More often than not, cardiac problems come to light when it is too late to prevent …or it’s discovered after the ape has died.
Our apes’ health is a top priority at the Center for Great Apes. Not only do we give the chimpanzees and orangutans the freshest and most nutritious meals, along with plenty of space for climbing, playing, and roaming the sanctuary grounds in our elevated chute system, but we are also proactive in our apes’ heart health. Our veterinarian has trained some of our caregivers to listen for arrhythmias (irregularities in the force or rhythm of a heartbeat) and changes in heartbeats. As part of our husbandry routine at CGA, these caregivers perform “Doppler training” on the apes. This allows them to use a non-invasive diagnostic instrument to detect and measure the heart rate of our residents.
One caregiver, Shannon, also assists in all veterinary procedures and health checks for our apes at CGA’s Arcus Great Ape Health Center, where she carefully monitors each ape’s heart rate while health checks are performed.
Shannon trains Jonah, a 16-year-old male chimpanzee, on the Doppler heart monitor. For the safety of our staff, as well as our apes, everything is done through the wire mesh of the enclosure.
Great job, Jonah!
Ellie is more interested in checking out the Doppler machine!
Silly time after doppler training- Ellie LOVES when Shannon makes this face!
Jacob, Jonah’s twin brother, is helpful and gets really close to the mesh for his Doppler reading!
Mari is very patient and helpful during doppler training too!
Handsome Pongo makes doppler training look good!
Mari is given yummy treats and pieces of fruit for her participation.