Zoo silverback gorilla gets heart check up

"Jomo", the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden's 19 year-old silverback, western lowland gorilla got a heart checkup as part of a preventative study.

A team of human cardiologists, technicians and corporate partners made the house call to the Cincinnati Zoo's Gorilla World exhibit recently to perform an awake cardiac ultrasound - also known as an echocardiogram or an echo - on Jomo.

As in humans, an echo is critical for assessing heart condition and identifying any problems. With early detection, follow–up treatments can be prescribed.

To date, heart disease is the number 1 cause of mortality in zoo gorillas. Jomo received a clean bill of health, and the zoo was able to collect valuable cardiac data that will aid nationwide scientific research.

A great deal of time, preparation and planning went into Jomo's echo. Each gorilla's physical makeup can be different in regards to chest cavity depth, musculature and sternum configuration; therefore the positions of the echo wand and stationary position of the gorilla can vary to access views of the heart.

Strong awareness of gorilla cardiac issues began in November 2006, when a workshop of physicians, veterinarians, pathologists and animal keepers, from across the country, came together to discuss the cardiac health issues apparent with captive gorillas.

As a result of the meeting, the Gorilla Health Project was created; receiving funding and donations to help with preventative research in gorilla cardiac care. The Cincinnati Zoo is proud to be among the industry leaders taking part in this amazing project.

Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered in the wild, with less than 175,000 individuals.

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