Scottie, Shirley, and Katrina, three of the Chattanooga Zoo’s seven chimpanzees, will have echocardiograms at the Chattanooga Zoo on Thursday, March 15. William Warren, M.D., cardiologist at The Chattanooga Heart Institute, will perform the echocardiograms. This is the seventh time the Chattanooga Zoo and Dr. Warren have partnered for this procedure.
Dr. Warren will perform a 3D echocardiogram, which will provide images of the heart valves and close-up views of cardiac structures from serval angles.
“Heart disease is the number one cause of death in chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas living in captivity,” said Dr. Anthony Ashley, DVM, veterinarian at the Chattanooga Zoo and Animal Clinic
23rd Street. “We don’t anticipate finding any heart problems in our chimpanzees from this test, but if heart disease is found, we will consider our treatment options including placing them on medications much like a human would be given. If there isn’t any sign of heart disease, we will have a baseline result showing normal heart functions that we can then compare with future echocardiograms.”
An echocardiogram uses sound waves to show images of the heart. “A chimpanzee’s heart is very similar to a human heart. This test will help us determine the strength and thickness of the chimpanzee’s heart muscle and how the heart valves are functioning,” said Dr. Warren.
The echocardiogram procedure lasts 15-20 minutes and the animals will be sedated for that time. In addition to providing zoo officials with information on their chimpanzees’ heart health, the echocardiograms and blood work will be sent to Zoo Atlanta, in Atlanta, as part of “The Great Ape Heart Project,” a ground-breaking national project that studies heart diseases in great apes. This project consists of gathering echocardiograms and blood work from great apes nation-wide within AZA-accredited institutions with the ultimate goal of preventing heart disease in these animals.
The Chattanooga Zoo’s CEO and President Dardenelle Long said, “We are so thankful to once again partner with The Chattanooga Heart Institute for this groundbreaking primate initiative. It is our hope that this partnership will keep our chimpanzees, including Scottie, Shirley, and Katrina, healthy and strong for many years to come.”