What is the Ape Heart Project?

Twycross Zoo is leading research into heart diseases in great apes.

Heart diseases are often reported as a significant cause of death among great apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans), similar to us, humans. However, our understanding about these conditions and consequently our abilities to treat and prevent them are limited.

Twycross Zoo and its partners, including the University of Nottingham and the University of Birmingham are leading the way in an exciting project. An international team of veterinarians, cardiologists and researchers are working hard to better understand great ape heart diseases. This work will help us to provide even better care not only for our animals but all great apes across Europe and beyond.

This project is part of a European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) Great Ape Taxon Advisory Group endorsed initiative striving to develop a collaborative and co-operative approach to the investigation of heart diseases among the European great ape population.

We are pleased to be supported by the EAZA Biobank, which facilitates international sample transfers from European countries. The EAZA Biobank is a vital initiative for supporting species population management and conservation research.

How you can help

Zoo professionals

If you work for a zoo or are a vet/cardiologist we would like you to be involved! You can help by providing samples, data, or carrying out clinical evaluations. All zoos holding great apes are encouraged to participate and the project provide free and professional support for this. For more information on how you can get involved, please click on the links below.

Forms and protocols

What to do if you anaesthetise a great ape:

What to do if a great ape dies in your zoo:

  • Guidance document; what to do in the event of a great ape death (Download here)
  • Cardiovascular post-mortem examination and sampling protocol (Download here)
  • Important information for sending samples to the ape heart project/cardiac biobank (Download here)
  • Sample submission form (Download here)

For more information on the echo exam submission process and report generation, please contact Great Ape Heart Project, Zoo Atlanta.

Sending samples to us

  • Please contact us first via email so that we can advise you on sampling, handling and shipping
  • For full guidance, please read the important information for sending samples (Download here)
  • Please complete a sample submission form (Download here) and send via email along with a copy of the animal’s post-mortem report, if applicable

Why participate?

  • The Ape Heart Project has made some significant findings so far, such as the characterisation of Idiopathic Myocardial Fibrosis (IMF) in European chimpanzees and the first-time discovery of an os cordis in a great ape heart (See our full list of publications here)
  • Any samples you donate will be invaluable in helping us search for better diagnosis and treatment of ape heart disease, with the hope of reducing mortality rates in our closest cousins
  • We provide all participants with a cardiac post-mortem report for their apes, regardless of the cause of death. This includes a thorough macroscopic and histopathologic investigation, performed by an experienced veterinary pathologist at the University of Nottingham
  • We aim to keep stakeholders up to date with our research progress. If you have provided samples, you may also ask for an update at any point via email and we would be happy to answer any questions you have.

Contact Us

For further support or any questions, please email us at heartproject@twycrosszoo.org.

You can also follow us on twitter @ape_heart_study

Useful links

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