What is the International Primate Heart Project?

The International Primate Heart Project (IPHP) is a collaboration between veterinary practitioners, cardiac physiologists and cardiologists setup to better understand cardiac disease in great apes.  Cardiac disease has been identified as a leading cause of 

death in captive great ape populations; however, the underlying cause is presently not known.  Furthermore, the knowledge base regarding normal cardiac structure and function in our nearest evolutionary cousins is extremely limited.  Accordingly, the IPHP aims to set recognized reference values for cardiac structure and function in all of the great apes in order to be better able to diagnose disease, and to investigate the specific causes of cardiac disease in great apes.

The project is led by Rob Shave (Professor of Cardiovascular Physiology) and managed by Aimee Drane both from Cardiff Metropolitan University (UK).  The IPHP have been working with UK zoo collections for the last three years and have recently extended the scope of the project into Europe and Africa.  The project has been endorsed by the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) and we work closely with the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA) and the Orangutan Veterinary Advisory Group (OVAG).

Working alongside veterinary teams during routine health assessments of captive great apes we conduct a thorough cardiac assessment using cardiac ultrasound, electrocardiograms and cardiac biomarkers.  These data are then used to write an overall cardiac report for each animal, which is sent back to the collection for the animal’s records. Should there be concern related to cardiac pathology the IPHP facilitates discussion between the veterinary team caring for the animal and experts in cardiac disease (human and veterinary specialists). To date we have conducted in excess of 350 assessments, all of these data are being used to establish normal reference range data that when published will be of benefit to veterinary teams responsible for great ape health and management.

The International Primate Heart Project is looking for zoos and sanctuaries that are interested in collaborating.  All work is completed free of charge, however, modest travel and accommodation charges are usually met by the collection. We are happy to provide references should you wish to discuss the project with previous collections we have worked with. For more information please contact us.