Grant represents the third show of federal support for the effort to target cardiac health in gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos
Zoo Atlanta has received a 2015 National Leadership Grant for Museums Award from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to continue leading the Great Ape Heart Project for the next three years. The $421,000 award represents the second time the Great Ape Heart Project has earned this prestigious federal grant and is the third show of support from IMLS for the world’s first effort to understand, diagnose, and treat a leading killer of great apes in zoos.
“We are honored and proud that IMLS finds the Great Ape Heart Project so meritorious that it has chosen to award Zoo Atlanta with such a highly competitive grant for the second time,” said Raymond B. King, President and CEO. “This effort is truly on the cutting edge of animal health, and it continues to explore new territory that has previously been unknown to animal care professionals anywhere in the world. Now that the project has shown us our own capabilities to understand and work together nationally on the problem of cardiac disease in great apes, we can move forward on improving the health and the lives of great apes living in institutions around the globe.”
The Great Ape Heart Project is the first coordinated clinical approach targeting cardiovascular disease (CVD) 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.
Zoo Atlanta was chosen to lead the Great Ape Heart Project as part of a 2010 IMLS National Leadership Planning Grant, and the project received its first IMLS National Leadership Grant for Museums in 2012. Earlier this year, the project began beta-testing a multinational database that will allow stakeholders to document, compare, and contrast great ape cardiac data, with a goal of establishing systematic measures for identifying, monitoring, and reporting cases from zoos across North America and in other countries. The database now holds records on more than 450 individuals, living and deceased, from more than 65 institutions.
Hayley Murphy, DVM, Senior Director of Animal Health at Zoo Atlanta, is the Director of the Great Ape Heart Project. Marietta Danforth, PhD, serves as Project and Database Manager. Partners and key collaborators include the Milwaukee County Zoo; the Wisconsin Cardiovascular Group of Columbia-St. Mary’s Hospital; and the University of Georgia Department of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery. Founding partners of the Great Ape Heart Project include the Emerging Diseases Research Group of the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.
All four great ape taxa are endangered or critically endangered in the wild. Great apes are a center of excellence for Zoo Atlanta, which is home to the nation’s largest collections of gorillas and orangutans. In 2009, the Zoo became the first zoological institution in the world to obtain voluntary blood pressure readings from a gorilla. Voluntary procedures such as blood pressure checks and cardiac ultrasounds reduce the frequency of anesthetic events while providing cardiovascular data that is not influenced by anesthetic drugs, thus providing unique and accurate diagnostic procedures that are safer for the apes in human care.
About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Their mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Their grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow IMLS on Facebook and Twitter.