Great Ape Heart Project
Great apes in captivity are at increased risk for heart disease. To study its causes, a group of researchers from the United States and the United Kingdom work together in the Great Ape Heart Project.
The exact reason for the higher incidence of heart disease in captive great apes is still unknown. It is true that Chimpanzees, gorillas bonobos and orangutans live longer in captivity, and genetic factors can play a role. Lifestyle is also a possible factor: captive apes, like well-to-do humans, are less active and have access to abundant food. This international project aims to shed more light on the subject, seeking causes for heart conditions in great apes and also links to the same problem in humans.
One element of the project is a focus on the examinations themselves, on the way data on the apes is gathered. Because anaesthesia can affect heart function and blood pressure, the animals are trained to tolerate echograms and blood pressure measurements while fully awake. Photos and a detailed description of this process are viewable on the website of the Great Ape Heart Project.