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Africa Ape Veterinary Outreach

Find out more
Great Ape Heart Project based at Zoo Atlanta
European Great Ape Heart Project
Ape Action Africa
Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA)
Limbe Wildlife Centre (LWC)
Follow @ZooAtlantaVet for twitter updates

On the ground and in the field: Follow updates from the Great Ape Heart Project in Cameroon! 

Exciting news from the field! Twelve experts from across the U.S. have arrived in Cameroon as part of the Great Ape Heart Project (GAHP) Veterinary Outreach Trip. The trip was planned to coincide with the 2013 Pan African Sanctuary Alliance Veterinary Workshop, and while this group of medical and veterinary professionals is in Cameroon, the Limbe Wildlife Centre and Ape Action Africa are using this opportunity to conduct complete health exams on several of the chimpanzees and gorillas living at both sanctuaries. 
 
Joined by their collaborators from the U.K.-based European Great Ape Heart Project, GAHP experts will have the unique opportunity to conduct cardiac exams on free-ranging sanctuary apes, offering a better understanding of what might be considered normal heart values for wild gorillas and chimpanzees. 
 
We’ll be following their progress with regular posts from the field. 
 
Updates from the field
 
Friday, March 8
We’re in Paris. The trip to the Douala Airport was harrowing but we made it. We are all exhausted. It’s very hard to leave such a great bunch of dedicated people. We made great friends. Sad also to leave Limbe Wildlife Centre. They do amazing things there. Glad to be heading home to family and friends. What an experience! 
Hayley Murphy, DVM
Director, Great Ape Heart Project at Zoo Atlanta
Director of Veterinary Services, Zoo Atlanta 

Wednesday, March 6
Hard day yesterday, but it ended in a wonderful dinner at our friends Ainare and Javier's. Pam was sick, heat was intense, and we did exams on five chimpanzees and a gorilla!
Hayley Murphy, DVM
Director, Great Ape Heart Project at Zoo Atlanta
Director of Veterinary Services, Zoo Atlanta

An umbrella has become another good tool to block the sun off the ultrasound machine screen. And it's stylish.
Monday, March 4
Had another great day, but had some GI distress so it’s hard to stay hydrated!  It’s very hot and humid today though. Took a cab to centre today – very interesting, jammed seven of us into a very small car with all of our packs. We still haven’t done a motorcycle taxi yet, but they will squeeze three to four people on these little motorbikes and fly through the streets here. Whoever honks first has the right of way. It’s amazing that we haven’t seen any crashes, but I must admit, I close my eyes a lot!
 
Our routine: eat at 7:30 a.m. at the hotel, go to Limbe Wildlife Centre at 8:30, and start setting up by 11 a.m., hopefully. Mornings are always kind of crazy and unpredictable. Usually we get one or two exams done by 12:30, and then the heat gets really intense. We power through nonstop until 3:30 or 4 p.m. Then we process blood (which takes forever because we are running lots of tests and we frequently overheat the machines and have to shut down and/or we lose power), repack for the next day, and eat. Then we try to get back to the hotel before dark and do data entry. Very exhausting. There is a curfew now because crime has escalated, so we need to get in early anyway. There are lots of heavily armed guards at the hotel and city center now, which is reassuring. 
 
Today is a big day. We’re doing an exam on the biggest silverback here – hope it is cooler (and that means less than 90 percent humidity and 90 degrees F). We have only four more days in Africa. I will be so sad to leave but also relieved to get home safe and to shower and wash my clothes. We are very stinky. Not sure if it’s gorilla, chimp or human stench, but it really doesn’t matter anymore. That’s all for now – anxious to get into our room and the AC! It’s unusual to have this much Internet so I wanted to get some details out for sharing. 
Hayley Murphy, DVM
Director, Great Ape Heart Project at Zoo Atlanta
Director of Veterinary Services, Zoo Atlanta 
 
Thursday, February 28
The team is getting a lot done now. We did exams on three gorillas and one chimp yesterday. There are a lot of concerns here about security, so we haven't done more than work all day, work through lunch, eat a late lunch, and then get to the hotel. We then review that day’s data, shower, and sleep. That is if there is power! It is a very beautiful place. Had a bad storm the other day, and that seemed to clear the air so we can now see Mt. Cameroon!
Hayley Murphy, DVM
Director, Great Ape Heart Project at Zoo Atlanta
Director of Veterinary Services, Zoo Atlanta 
 
The entire team examines Margaret the chimpanzee during her procedure
The Great Ape Heart Project's Pam Dennis runs some blood tests from the day's procedures
Limbe head veterinarian John Kiyang gets some pointers on ultrasounding hearts from the Great Ape Heart Project's Ilana Kutinsky while veterinary technician Akih Emmanuel monitors Margaret the chimpanzee's vitals
 
Exhibit yard for drills at Limbe
 
Saturday, February 23
The Great Ape Heart Project Africa trip is going well. We had a slow start to the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance Workshop but are ready to start doing exams in earnest. Today everyone needed a little break after the hectic workshop schedule, so we headed off to the black sand beaches of Martin Beach. Absolutely beautiful, super-soft, black sand. The water was amazingly clear and warm and we relaxed under beautiful almond trees under the shadow of the mountain. 
 
Back to work tomorrow!
Hayley Murphy, DVM
Director, Great Ape Heart Project at Zoo Atlanta
Director of Veterinary Services, Zoo Atlanta 
 
Thursday, February 21 
Doing great in Cameroon! We may move to a different hotel today, as some of us have no air conditioning. It’s hard to sleep at these temps and humidity, but it’s hard to complain when many others have nothing – spoiled Americans. Here are a few of the rules we’ve learned: Order food at least two to three hours before you want to eat. Arrive one to two hours after work was to begin. Don’t eat goat. The water is treated in Limbe, but don’t take any chances. Smelly is relative, and “dirty” is a frame of mind. When you need it most, the power will go out. Don’t swim in the pools. If passports are taken by police in black berets, no big deal. If passports are taken by police in red berets, act crazy and cry. If you wander out at night, have a passport, a flashlight, and a friend, and never travel without a Larry light. 
 
All is well! 
Hayley Murphy, DVM
Director, Great Ape Heart Project at Zoo Atlanta
Director of Veterinary Services, Zoo Atlanta 
 
Things are going well here! Adam Thompson, our team videographer, is working hard to document the entire trip. 
 
Dr. Gregg Rapoport gave an excellent breakfast lecture on canine heartworm disease today. 
Pam Dennis 
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo 
 
Wednesday, February 19
Hayley Murphy (Director of the Great Ape Heart Project at Zoo Atlanta), Adam Thompson (Content Producer, Zoo Atlanta), Pam Dennis (Cleveland Metroparks Zoo), Ben Brainard (University of Georgia) and Gregg Rapoport (University of Georgia) flew out of Atlanta together on Saturday, February 16. The group connected in Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport the next day. 
 
Limbe
Pam Dennis let us know that the team arrived safely in Cameroon and were greeted enthusiastically by Ainare, a veterinarian from Limbe Wildlife Centre, before being transported by van to Limbe. After their second full day in Cameroon, Hayley reported that while there was no air conditioning or hot water, she was thrilled to be looking forward to their first gorilla exam. 
 
The team attended the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance Veterinary Workshop, where there were talks about the “aframomum” plant, which is part of gorilla diets in the wild and is believed to help in the prevention of heart disease. 
 
In closing, Pam Dennis reported on the first gorilla exam of the trip: “First gorilla exam today went well! Female with a ruptured cruciate. Fortunately it wasn’t a fracture.” 
 
We’re looking forward to the next update from the field!