The two gorillas at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo are doing well after undergoing heart exams and general check-ups earlier this month at the Sarah Allison Steffee Center for Zoological Medicine.
The Zoo's veterinary care staff conducted the February 2 evaluations in an effort to assess the cardiac health of the two male gorillas, as recent research indicates that gorillas are prone to heart disease at zoos nationwide. The exams also are part of the Zoo's lead role in the Gorilla Health Project, a nationwide collaboration aimed at addressing cardiac issues in zoo gorillas.
The recent exams found signs of minor heart disease in 20-year-old gorilla Mokolo and advanced heart disease in 23-year-old gorilla Bebac, according to Dr. Albert Lewandowski, the Zoo's Chief Veterinarian. Veterinarians expect to have both gorillas on treatment regimens within the coming week.
The left side of Mokolo's heart is enlarged but still functions fairly well. Bebac's heart is markedly more enlarged, shows some impairment and doesn't pump as efficiently as it should. The gorillas will be placed on beta blockers and/or ACE inhibitors, drugs familiar to people with high blood pressure and heart disease.
"Catching heart disease early, as in humans, allows more effective management of their health and well-being," Lewandowski said. "Putting these gorillas on medication will help stem the progression of the heart disease and hopefully improve their long-term survival. The work we're doing here in Cleveland ultimately will help gorillas across the globe."
Lewandowski and Dr. Christopher Bonar, Associate Veterinarian, led the exams, with Dr. Ilana Kutinsky, a cardiologist from Beaumont Hospital in Detroit, conducting the ultrasonic evaluations with equipment provided by GE Medical.
Dr. Pam Dennis, the Zoo's Veterinary Epidemiologist and a leader of the Gorilla Health Project, will contribute medical data from the gorillas' tests to a new national database of gorilla health information.
"As we learn more about health problems in gorillas, we can discover the underlying causes and find ways to prevent heart disease in gorillas," Dennis said. "Testing our gorillas will benefit the entire captive gorilla population."
Bebac and Mokolo came to Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in 1994 from Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. They are on exhibit daily at the Primate, Cat & Aquatics Building.