Heart Disease Is Killing Caged Gorillas

Experts try to treat mystery ailment in US zoos
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 5, 2008 7:50 PM CDT
A twenty-three-year-old gorilla named Bebac undergoes a cardiac check-up.   (AP Photo/Jeannie DeBonis, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, HO)
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(Newser) – Gorillas in US zoos are dying from heart disease, and no one knows why, the AP reports. Zookeepers and scientists started a nationwide “Gorilla Health Project” 2 years ago to probe the causes of fibrosing cardiomyopathy, a condition that turns heart muscle into useless fibers and has left scores of gorillas dead in the last few years.

Some say zoo diet is to blame; others wonder about climate, exercise, or the social climate of captive gorilla populations. Investigators are hampered because the lowland gorilla population in Africa has shrunk by more than half over 10 years.  Fewer wild specimens exist to study, and scientists are acknowledging that wild gorillas may be extinct by 2050.