Ape Heart Project Staff

Phillipa Dobbs BSc (hons) BVetMed (hons) CertAVP (ZM) Dipl ECZM (ZHM) MRCVS 

Veterinary Services Manager and Clinical lead of Ape heart project, Twycross Zoo


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Phillipa has worked as a clinical veterinary surgeon at Twycross Zoo for 10 years and has played an active role in the Ape Heart project since the beginning. She took over as Clinical lead of the project in 2020 which involves co-supervising the PhD student and assisting with all research being carried out as part of the project.

She completed a residency of the European College of Zoological Medicine in April 2023, alongside her normal role. She is particularly interested in cardiac biomarkers as a measure of Great Ape heart health.

Rachel Jarvis BSc (Hons), MSc
PhD Student at University of Nottingham

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Rachel’s PhD project focuses on investigating the relationship between cardiovascular health, serum biomarkers and vitamin D levels in the European zoo chimpanzee population. As part of this, Rachel will spend time at Twycross Zoo learning from the team of clinicians via annual health checks, regular behaviour observations and clinical monitoring of the zoo’s great apes. Rachel aims to establish seasonal vitamin D reference intervals in chimpanzees, as well as validate species-specific, sensitive cardiac biomarker signatures through mass spectrometry-based proteomics and ELISA work at the University of Birmingham.

Kerstin Baiker, Dr.med.vet, Dipl ECVP, MRCVS, SFHEA
Clinical Professor of Veterinary Pathology at City University, Hong Kong


Phillipa has worked as a clinical veterinary surgeon at Twycross Zoo for 10 years and has played an active role in the Ape Heart project since the beginning. She took over as Clinical lead of the project in 2020 which involves co-supervising the PhD student and assisting with all research being carried out as part of the project.

She completed a residency of the European College of Zoological Medicine in April 2023, alongside her normal role. She is particularly interested in cardiac biomarkers as a measure of Great Ape heart health.

Mike Martin

Veterinary cardiologist

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Mike is a veterinary surgeon and has been a RCVS registered Specialist in Veterinary Cardiology since 1995 and revalidated every 5 years ever since. His background has been in dog and cat speciality cardiology practice for over 25 years. However, he retired from clinical practice and the end of 2017. Now his focus is in training and education of veterinary surgeons. He has been involved as an adviser and consultant to the Ape Heart Project since 2014, bringing his specialist cardiology knowledge to help in research of heart disease in the great apes.

Professor Kate White
Professor of Veterinary Anaesthesia & Analgesia, University of Nottingham

Kate is Professor of Veterinary Anaesthesia and Analgesia and the Clinical Director of the Nottingham Vet School. Her research interests are in many aspects of pain assessment, analgesia and anaesthesia in companion, farmed, captive wild, and laboratory animals. Kate is particularly interested in descending controls and the role they play in acute and chronic pain in models of musculoskeletal disease.

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Kate teaches physiology, pharmacology, anaesthesia and analgesia across the 5-year curriculum and works in the clinical associate practices, and supervises undergraduate and postgraduate students. She is Senior Vice President of the Association of Veterinary Anaesthetists and also the anaesthesia consultant on the Ape Health project at Twycross zoo investigating health and disease in great apes.

Dr. Melissa Grant SFHEA
Senior Lecturer in Biological Sciences, School of Dentistry at University of Birmingham

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Melissa Grant is a biochemist by training and a senior lecturer in biological sciences at the University of Birmingham’s School of Dentistry. Her research is focussed on understanding the role of inflammation in oral disease, with particular emphasis on the functions of white blood cells called neutrophils and detection of disease for instance in saliva. With the Ape Heart Project Melissa is interested in what role oral disease might play in heart disease and if heart disease might be detected in saliva. She is collaborating with others in the AHP on finding biomarkers and developing those into saliva diagnostic tests.

Dr Matyas Liptovszky
EBVS® European Veterinary Specialist in Zoo Health Management 
Member of European College of Zoological Medicine

Dr Liptovszky is currently Director Life Sciences at Perth Zoo. Prior to this position he worked in a number of European and UK zoos both as a zoo and wildlife veterinarian and in different leadership roles. He worked in a wide range of field conservation and research projects in Europe, the UK, Asia, Africa, Central America and Australasia.

He graduated as a veterinary surgeon in 2005, while also earned a diploma in wildlife management during his studies. He holds a master in exotic animal medicine and an MSc in science communication. He is a honorary assistant professor of zoo animal medicine at the University of Nottingham, School of Veterinary Medicine and Science (UK) and veterinary advisor of the Western lowland gorilla EEP.

Matyas Liptovszky

His main focus of interest is anaesthesia of nondomestic species, clinical research and conservation medicine.

Mat is currently collaborating with the project on various research projects.

Hannah Stephenson

BVMS (Hons) CertSAM DipECVIM-CA (Cardiology) MRCVS RCVS & EBVS® European Veterinary Specialist in Small Animal Cardiology 

Hannah graduated as a vet in 2005 and after some time in mixed practice she undertook post graduate training in cardiology.

Hannah Ape Heart Project

She has been an EBVS and RCVS Specialist in Cardiology since 2012.

She currently works in her busy peripatetic cardiology practice in the North West of England, mainly seeing dogs and cats, but has always enjoyed seeing a variety of species. She joined the Ape Heart Project in 2022.

Katie Howell

Advanced Practitioner in Veterinary Cardiology

Kate Ape Heart Project

Katie is a veterinary surgeon and Advanced Practitioner in Veterinary Cardiology. After many years in both small animal and equine first opinion practice, Katie is now based in a small animal Cardiology Referral Centre in Derbyshire.

Whilst the majority of her cardiology work is with dogs and cats, she has a keen interest in Great Apes and has recently become involved with the Ape Heart Project as an additional member of the cardiology team.

Laurent Locquet

DVM MRCVS GPCert (VC) Diplomate ECVIM-CA (Cardiology)
Veterinary Cardiologist

Laurent graduated in 2015 from Ghent University, Belgium and worked in general practice for one year both abroad in South-Africa as well as in Belgium, primarily with cats, dogs and wildlife, before starting a rotating Internship in a busy referral centre in the UK. During his Internship, Laurent obtained his certificate in Veterinary Cardiology at the University of Ghent before joining a busy referral practice in the Greater London Area for one year before joining Dick White Referrals in 2022.

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Laurent enjoys all aspects of veterinary Cardiology through he has a particular interest in procedures involving cardiopulmonary bypass, minimally invasive interventions and wildlife cardiology, having scanned a whole variety of species, ranging from Great Apes, bears, tigers and alligators.

Dr Aimee Drane (PhD)
Lecturer in Cardiovascular and Exercise Physiology. International Primate Heart Project Lead. Accredited member of the British Society of Echocardiography.

Aimee qualified as an NHS Clinical Cardiac Physiologist in 2008 and attained the British Society of Echocardiography accreditation in 2009. Aimee moved from full time clinical work into research in 2013 where she began working for the International Primate Heart Project based at Cardiff Metropolitan University. She completed her doctoral thesis entitled ‘The Chimpanzee Heart: defining the normal cardiac phenotype and understanding the influence of anaesthesia and captive environment’ in 2020. Through this thesis Aimee was able to establish normative echocardiographic ranges for chimpanzees and examined the influence of two key anaesthetic protocols upon cardiac structure and function in chimpanzees. 

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Moreover, this research has demonstrated key structural and functional differences between captive chimpanzee environments. Aimee continues to work closely with Ape Heart Project at Twycross, a number of African chimpanzee sanctuaries and the Great Ape Heart Project to further our understanding of cardiovascular disease in great apes.

Previous Staff

Dr. Sharon Redrobe OBE

Founder of the Ape Heart Project

Dr Sharon Redrobe OBE was CEO of Twycross 2013-2022, and founded the Ape Heart Project in collaboration with EAZA in 2016. Sharon has over 25 years’ experience working in academia, the charity sector and business. Sharon has had a life‐long fascination with wildlife and a belief in the role modern zoos must play in conservation, whilst remaining relevant and supported by the public.

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In a rapidly changing world, Sharon believes science‐led solutions to saving wildlife whilst engaging the public are essential to the success of a ‘One World’ future. Sharon was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s New Year Honours List 2017 in recognition for her services to Skills, Science and the Economy.

Philippa Bucknell BSc (hons) BVM&S MRCVS AFHEA

Diploma graduate of University of Nottingham and Twycross Zoo

Pip qualified as a Vet in 2016 and commenced the DVetMed (Zoo Animal Medicine and Surgery) in association with the University of Nottingham and Twycross Zoo in July 2021, changing to a Diploma in 2022 completing her studies in November 2022.

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Pip’s research continued the valuable work of Sophie Moittié and Victoria Strong, investigating the aetiopathogenesis of heart disease (particularly myocardial fibrosis) in Great Apes.

Sophie Moittié, LV, MRCVS, DVetMed postgraduate student 2016-March 2021

University of Nottingham and Twycross Zoo

Sophie Moittié qualified as a veterinary surgeon in 2009 and completed a 4-year postgraduate program with the University of Nottingham and Twycross Zoo in March 2021. This program combined general clinical work at the zoo as part of the vet team and Ape Heart Project studies in great ape cardiac diseases. 

Her research looked into the causes and mechanisms of heart disease in gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans. Her thesis investigated the accuracy of non-invasive blood-pressure devices in chimpanzees and the value of implantable loop recorders to detect arrhythmias in chimpanzees.

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She also completed research on the use of the dried blood spot method to measure vitamin D status in chimpanzees and the vitamin D status of the European chimpanzee population alongside continuing the histopathological examination of Great ape hearts.”

Dr Vicky Strong


Vicky qualified as a Veterinary Surgeon from the University of Liverpool in 2010 after having been awarded a First-Class BSc (Hons) in Veterinary Pathology from the Royal Veterinary College, London in 2008.

After 3 years in full time general (mixed farm and small animal) veterinary practice she embarked upon a 4-year doctoral training programme at The University of Nottingham and Twycross Zoo, and in 2017 was the first student to complete the University of Nottingham with the Degree of Veterinary Medicine (DVetMed).

The DVetMed involved a combination of doctoral research alongside clinical training in zoological medicine. Her doctoral thesis was entitled ‘Getting to the heart of the matter: an investigation into great ape mortality and cardiovascular disease’ and aimed to confront significant gaps in knowledge about these two key areas of interest.

Vicky carried out a mortality study to identify the main causes of death of great apes in zoos across Europe and wrote many of the Ape Heart Project protocols. She initiated and conducted a study carrying out detailed post-mortem examinations of great ape hearts and completed a piece of research looking at the effect of general anaesthesia on the heart.

Victoria Strong

Vicky continues to conduct research into great ape health and welfare in her role as Clinical Assistant Professor in Exotic Animal Medicine at the University of Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science.

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