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Great Ape Cardiovascular Health Research


In 2009, the Milwaukee County Zoo hosted a national workshop called the Great Ape Cardiovascular Working Group that brought together experts from throughout the country to discuss great ape cardiovascular health. This workshop launched an effort to identify causes, prevention and treatment of great ape cardiovascular disease.

In response to this workshop, the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences issued a grant that facilitated formation of the Atlanta based Great Ape Heart Project (GAHP). As a participant in the GAHP, the Milwaukee County Zoo, along with other medical consultants and a graduate student, developed the Bonobo Cardiovascular Database that archives and analyzes bonobo ultrasound studies performed throughout North America.

Our Zoo maintains one of the largest groups of bonobos in captivity. Through the use of positive reinforcement training, our zookeepers routinely conduct heart ultrasound tests on our bonobos without any type of sedation, restraints or anesthesia. This allows us to study their hearts, learn what is normal and improve our ability to monitor and care for bonobos that develop heart disease.