What Do Gorillas Eat In The Zoo

What Do Gorillas Eat In The Zoo – Moppy, a western gorilla who lives in Washington, DC. Lived at the National Zoo, died in 2006. File Jesse Cohen/AP

Moppy looked the picture of monkey fitness: his shoulders broad and tall, his back silver-haired and muscular, his biceps bulging like a wrestling thigh when his head touched.

What Do Gorillas Eat In The Zoo

What Do Gorillas Eat In The Zoo

He’s got a healthy appetite (he’s eating 7 pounds of food a day) and Moppy is no couch potato, either: He’ll soon be in Washington, DC. In the National Zoo will expand his enclosure, running wild in the small gorilla, and raised himself out of the maple, as if to show the world that he is the king of the House of the Great Apes.

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Lisa Stevens, keeper of primates and giant pandas at the National Zoo, said, “The only thing about Mopy is how beautiful he is, and whenever Mopy sits proudly in the exhibit trees,” she added to his magic. .

That’s why Stevens and the zoo staff were so surprised when, on the afternoon of July 3, 2006, this famous western gorilla suddenly collapsed after playing with a partner he had just trained. By the time keepers had removed the other gorillas and attempted CPR on Moppy, the 430-pound gentle giant was lifeless — a victim of heart failure at the age of 34.

Like his father, who died the same way at the zoo in the early 1990s, Moppy was previously diagnosed with an unknown form of heart disease called fibrosing cardiomyopathy, in which healthy heart muscle becomes fibrous. Turns into tissue that cannot bleed. And yet, he showed no outward symptoms, and his diet and behavior were normal.

“There was nothing to indicate that he was feeling anxious or under the weather,” Stevens recalled. “That’s what makes it even more shocking.”

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There was no confusion, two days earlier the National Zoo had lost the sole leader of its male group, a silver named Kuja. Diagnosed a month earlier with heart failure related to cardiomyopathy, Kuja (pronounced KOO-yah) died during surgery for an intravenous injection. His age is 23 years.

Gorillas in zoos across the country, especially males and those in their 20s and 30s, are getting sick — and sometimes dying suddenly — from progressive heart disease to aneurysms to valvular disease to cardiomyopathy.

Just two months before the deaths at the National Zoo, the San Francisco Zoo lost a young gorilla named Pogo to heart disease. A week earlier, the Memphis Zoo had similarly lost one named Tumai. And in previous years, there were others: Akbar at the Toledo Zoo in 2005, and Sam and Michael at the Knoxville Zoo at the Gorilla Foundation in California in 2000.

What Do Gorillas Eat In The Zoo

Now zoos are struggling to understand what’s causing the disease and what can be done to save the 368 gorillas currently living in 52 North American zoos. .

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A 1994 study of 74 captive gorilla deaths, published by veterinarian Tom Meehan of Brookfield Zoo in Chicago and Linda Lowenstein of the University of California at Davis, found that 41 percent — and 70 percent — by 30 years Older men – they come. Heart disease, mainly fibrous cardiomyopathy.

“This study was a wake-up call,” said Meehan, now vice president for veterinary services at the Chicago Zoological Society. He expressed the need to “go to the next level of evaluating animals and see how their lives relate to their health.”

In the mid-1990s, when this study was published, about 100,000 western gorillas roamed freely in the forests of Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola and Nigeria. Far less dangerous than their cousins, the mountain gorillas, these apes are only officially considered “protected”.

Since then, however, lowland gorillas have been dying off rapidly in the wild. Hunting, logging, widespread forest trade, and an Ebola outbreak have reduced their numbers to about 30,000 — and in September, the species was classified as “Critically Endangered” by the New . At their current rate of decline, gorillas are predicted to disappear from the wild by 2050.

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“Soon, these great apes may only exist in captivity,” said Haley Murphy, director of veterinary services at Zoo New England, which manages Boston’s Franklin Park Zoo and the Stone Zoo in Stoneham, Mass. . . The zoo is home to seven western lowland gorillas. , the only species kept in captivity.

In 2000, a cardiologist at the Michigan Heart Group, Dr. Along with Ilana Kutinsky, Murphy began reviewing heart ultrasounds of zoo gorillas in hopes of finding out why the animals are at risk for heart problems. . It’s part of a larger archaeological effort to help save what Murphy calls “evolution’s closest living relatives.”

But as the ultrasound information was entered into a database and compared with necropsy reports on dead gorillas, clues began to emerge. “We’re starting to notice that some gorilla hearts are weirder than others,” Kutinsky says. “Foreign objects are small in size, very thick, and they have not bled much.”

What Do Gorillas Eat In The Zoo

The findings raise other questions: Are heart abnormalities the result of genetic variation? Gorilla sex? Does climate play a role? How big a factor is food? Are gorillas getting enough exercise in their habitats? Or too much? Is heart disease caused by a bacterial or viral infection?

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Some have also asked: Do gorillas develop heart disease because of the way they are raised or socialized in zoos?

As the scope of the mystery grew, the number of cases of monkey heart disease continued to increase.

One is Babek, a 24-year-old gorilla at the Birmingham Zoo in Alabama. Male gorillas in zoos live up to 54 years, and the average life expectancy is 30; So when Babek started coughing, eating less and clutching his chest in early 2003, medical professionals examined him, and they recognized his fate: cardiomyopathy.

Although the gorilla was given medication for human heart disease, his condition continued to deteriorate. He lost 80 pounds (20 percent of his body weight), water accumulated in his stomach. And during the summer of 2004, his heart pumped only 10 percent of the blood his body needed.

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With Babek in the final stages of heart failure, the zoo risked a procedure never before attempted on a gorilla: implanting an advanced pacemaker in Babek’s chest that restores the heart’s electrical circuits and Restores the ability to contract.

Today, Babek’s prognosis is better. You lose excess water weight, your heart and other organs work more efficiently, and your heart and circulatory system are constantly monitored.

Neil Kay, a cardiologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Heart and Vascular Center, later revealed that the only reason Babek still welcomes visitors to the Birmingham Zoo is “to call him on time.”

What Do Gorillas Eat In The Zoo

Such an intervention could save individuals like Babek — but unknown are the questions of why gorillas develop heart disease in the first place, and how to prevent the disease from developing.

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That’s why in November 2006—three months after the deaths of Mopi and Kuja at the National Zoo—ape experts, anthropologists, and animal epidemiologists, biologists, and managers from across the country gathered at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo, which they called called the “Gorilla Health Project”. .”

Their first task: creating a national gorilla heart database. With it, veterinarians can track heart disease and death rates and try to understand the cause of the scar tissue that replaces heart muscle in monkeys.

For Kristen Lucas, gorilla species survival program manager for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the project represents a “sea change” in how zoos will care for more than just gorillas. , but many other endangered species are in captivity.

This level of networking between clinical and human medical experts from universities, clinics and animal rights groups “has never happened before,” he said.

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Meehan, a Chicago veterinarian who has worked with gorillas since 1979, hopes the initiative will mark a giant leap forward in animal care since the 1960s, when gorillas were brought into zoos. Living population. .

Collecting new data will present challenges, of course. One requires a monkey echocardiogram. To perform the test, a gorilla must be sedated, “which carries a certain amount of risk,” said Stanford University cardiologist David Liang, a consultant to the Gorilla Foundation in California.

Another option, some experts say, could be to perform biopsies on affected gorillas to obtain small samples of heart muscle. This will also require anesthesia.

What Do Gorillas Eat In The Zoo

Many scientists and veterinarians consider diet to be the prime suspect in heart disease in captive animals. And testing that might require large-scale studies of western gorilla deaths in the wild, they say — which, for a number of reasons, is difficult.

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Gorillas in the wild die young, meaning they don’t live long enough to develop head-related disorders. In addition, the male silverback – the king of gorilla society – often hides the symptoms

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