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Great Ape Heart Project Awarded Second Grant
Friday, September 21, 2012

Prestigious federal support is the largest animal health programs grant ever received at Zoo Atlanta

Zoo Atlanta has received a prestigious 2012 National Leadership Grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to continue leading the Great Ape Heart Project for the next three years. The $486,580 grant represents the second show of support by IMLS for the multi-institutional effort to examine cardiac disease in great apes. 

“We are delighted and proud that IMLS continues to see the merit in supporting the Great Ape Heart Project,” said Hayley Murphy, DVM, Director of Veterinary Services at Zoo Atlanta and the Director of the Great Ape Heart Project. “We’ve already seen evidence of our capability to improve the health of great apes in zoological collections around the world, and we’re energized and excited about the possibilities of what we can do with the project over the next few years.”

The Great Ape Heart Project seeks to identify, diagnose, and treat cardiovascular disease (CVD) across all four non-human great ape taxa: gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos. A leading cause of death in apes living in zoological settings, CVD has until very recently been a poorly-understood area of great ape veterinary care. Its study requires advanced understanding of diagnosing, treating, and monitoring affected individuals, as well as adapting techniques already in use in humans and domestic animals.

Zoo Atlanta was selected to lead the Great Ape Heart Project as part of a 2010 IMLS National Leadership Planning Grant. Principals among the project’s more than 50 partners are the Emerging Diseases Research Group of the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine and Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Over the past year, the effort has also expanded to include partners in Europe.

Great Ape Heart Project partners in the U.S. and Europe have now successfully obtained cardiac exams on all four great ape taxa. Of 53 institutions now included in the project’s database, 44 have submitted cardiac exams; two of these were from partners in Switzerland and Spain. Since 2011, 198 new and retrospective cases have been added to the database.

“The Great Ape Heart Project is truly on the cutting edge of health and welfare for great apes living in zoos everywhere,” said Raymond King, President and CEO. “This is just one more example of the numerous ways Zoo Atlanta is directly and indirectly impacting animal welfare, both in captivity and in the wild.”

The 2012 IMLS grant is the largest animal health programs grant ever received at Zoo Atlanta, and it builds on a national reputation for one of the Zoo’s foremost centers of excellence. The Zoo is home to the largest zoological collections of gorillas and orangutans in the U.S., and Zoo Atlanta scientists have authored or co-authored more than 120 research papers on gorillas.

“We believe that each of these grants will advance the museum, library and archive professions through new research and the creation and dissemination of innovative tools, models and activities that can be shared broadly,” said IMLS Director Susan Hildreth.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Through grant making, policy development, and research, IMLS helps communities and individuals thrive through broad public access to knowledge, cultural heritage and lifelong learning. To learn about the Institute, visit www.imls.gov.