Archived News

Vet Pathologist at Work on Great Ape Heart Project

February 3, 2011

Editor's note: This press release was produced by Zoo Atlanta.

What's New Image

February 3, 2011

Experts from across the U.S. will soon converge at Zoo Atlanta to discuss strategies for combating one of the leading causes of mortality among great apes living in zoological institutions, heart disease. Among them will be Linda Lowenstine, a veterinary pathologist and internationally renowned professor at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

Set for February 6-8, 2011, the national meeting of the Great Ape Heart Project will gather more than 50 cardiologists, veterinarians, pathologists, nutritionists, geneticists and ape specialists.

Funded by a grant awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services in August 2010, the Great Ape Heart Project is led by Hayley Murphy, DVM, director of Veterinary Services at Zoo Atlanta. Key project partners include the Emerging Diseases Research Group of the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine; the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine; and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

The study of cardiovascular disease in great apes requires advanced understanding of diagnosing, treating, and monitoring affected individuals, as well as adapting techniques already in use for treatment of heart disease in humans and domestic animals. Murphy and her colleagues in the Great Ape Heart Project will use the one-year grant to design an innovative national program for investigating the disease and establishing state-of-the-art diagnostics, treatment and prevention.The scientists aim to develop a consistent approach to the study of cardiovascular disease and provide universal guidelines for zoo vets to manage their patients.


A member of the project's executive committee, Lowenstine helped develop the successful grant proposal. For the project, she will track and compare the pathology of heart disease in the ape species in captivity. She will also work with the clinical veterinary advisors to maintain mortality databases.

As the pathology advisor for the gorilla, orangutan and bonobo Species Survival Plans and for the Ape Taxon Advisory Group of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Lowenstine provides specialized expertise regarding specific necropsy protocols that enable investigation of important issues such as heart disease.

The Great Ape Heart Project meeting comes on the heels of the 11th anniversary of an iconic Zoo Atlanta resident who was also affected by heart problems. Willie B. passed away on February 2, 2000, from complications of cardiovascular disease.

Media contacts:

Keisha N. Hines, Director of Public Relations and Communications, Zoo Atlanta
404.624.5980 - office
404.309.2238 - cell

Linda Lowenstine, Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine,