Generic filters
Exact matches only
9:00 am - 6:00 pm

Great Ape Heart Project awarded fourth IMLS grant

Grant is largest show of federal support to date for the effort to target cardiac health in gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos.

The Great Ape Heart Project headquartered at Zoo Atlanta has been selected to receive a 2019 National Leadership Grants for Museums award from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). At $619,044, the grant is the largest the project has ever received from IMLS and represents the fourth show of federal support for the Great Ape Heart Project. Primary collaborators on the grant are the University of Illinois (Zoological Pathology Program), the University of Georgia (Zoo and Exotic Animal Pathology Service, Infectious Diseases Laboratory and Department of Pathology) and Dr. Linda Lowenstine (professor emerita, University of California, Davis).

The Great Ape Heart Project is the world’s first coordinated clinical approach targeting cardiovascular disease in all four non-human great ape taxa – gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos – living in zoological environments. The disease is a primary cause of mortality among great apes in zoos but, until recently, had been a poorly understood area of zoological veterinary care. Its examination requires advanced understanding of diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of affected individuals, as well as adaptation of techniques already in use in humans and domestic animals.

“We are honored that the Great Ape Heart Project has been selected a fourth time for such a prestigious and competitive grant, especially now that the project has helped us learn more about our own capabilities in this field,” said Hayley Murphy, DVM, Deputy Director of Zoo Atlanta and Director of the Great Ape Heart Project. “The Great Ape Heart Project continues to open up new opportunities for collaboration on a national and international level as we work toward the common goal of improving the health of all great apes in human care.”

The 2019 National Leadership Grant is the fourth received by the Great Ape Heart Project. Zoo Atlanta was chosen to lead the effort as part of a 2010 IMLS National Leadership Planning Grant. The project has resulted in the creation of a multinational database that allows stakeholders to document, compare and contrast great ape cardiac data, with a goal of establishing systematic measures for identifying, monitoring and reporting cases from zoos across North America and in other countries. The database holds records on more than 450 individuals, living and deceased, from more than 65 contributing institutions.

This new grant utilizes the power of pathology, which studies the underlying mechanisms causing disease, to utilize and analyze postmortem data, correlated with previous collected clinical data, to better understand potential causes or contributions to heart disease in apes, and to improve early disease detection, treatment and prevention in living apes.

All four great ape taxa are endangered or critically endangered in the wild. Great apes are a longtime area of excellence for Zoo Atlanta, which is home to some of North America’s largest populations of gorillas and orangutans. In 2009, Zoo Atlanta became the first zoological organization in the world to obtain voluntary blood pressure readings from a gorilla. Voluntary procedures such as blood pressure checks and cardiac ultrasounds reduce the frequency of anesthetic events while providing cardiovascular data that is not influenced by anesthetic drugs, thus providing unique and accurate diagnostic procedures that are safer for the apes in human care.

Learn more about the Great Ape Heart Project here on For more about the University of Illinois Zoological Pathology Program, visit For more on IMLS, visit

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl