Postmortem Evaluations

Performing and Submitting PM Evaluations

When an ape dies, an animal autopsy, called a necropsy, is typically performed. Within the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the necropsy reports are shared with the Species Survival Plan (SSP) Pathology advisors and submitted for inclusion in the GAHP Database.

Additionally, institutions may either use a contracted pathologist or pay to have an SSP pathology advisor perform a postmortem evaluation of the heart. The GAHP pathology advisors, Drs. Rita McManamon, Karen Terio, and Linda Lowenstine (who also happen to be the SSP pathology advisors) have created basic and detailed cardiac necropsy protocols to choose from:

1) GAHP Recommended Cardiac Necropsy Prosection Guide [download pdf]

2) GAHP Recommended Cardiac Trimming Protocol for Pathologists [download pdf]

The protocols include information on how to properly suspend the heart for transport.
***The GAHP’s 2019 IMLS Pathology Grant has funding to cover the costs of cardiac necropsies. In the event of an ape death, please contact to coordinate shipping the heart to Dr. Karen Terio.

When submitting necropsy and postmortem cardiac reports to the SSP, please include to expedite the submission to the GAHP database. For the general great ape necropsy protocol, please refer to the Members Only section of

Note for International Cases:

For European Zoos – The GAHP collaborates with the EAZA’s Ape Heart Project which is based out of Twycross Zoo. Please refer to their website for postmortem protocols and submissions.

Outside of EU – The GAHP Pathology Advisors cannot accept hearts internationally for evaluation, however we are available to answer any questions, and will gladly accept any necropsy report submissions. Please contact us at for more information.