The Great Ape Heart Project, based at Zoo Atlanta, is the first coordinated clinical approach targeting cardiovascular disease across all four non-human great ape taxa: gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos. The disease is a primary cause of mortality among great apes living in zoological settings, but until very recently, has been a poorly-understood area of veterinary care. Its examination requires advanced understanding of diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of affected apes, as well as adaptation of techniques already in use in humans and domestic animals.
In collaboration with institutions around the world, Smithsonian's Global Health Program staff are helping investigate new ways to detect markers of heart disease in great apes. By using non-invasive samples that can be easily collected, caretakers can identify affected animals earlier in the course of disease and begin appropriate treatment.