Who loves going to the doctor? How about bringing the doctor to you? That's what a new training program at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium does -- the gorillas volunteer.
Western lowland gorillas are part of an innovative training program to teach them to voluntarily participate in echocardiogram and blood pressure testing.
Animal care staff use positive reinforcement techniques to shape animal behaviors.
In the demonstration before our camera, gorillas voluntarily presented their chest for the echocardiogram.
They will also place their arm in a fabricated sleeve for a blood pressure measurement.
Because the animal voluntarily participates in the exam, animal care staff can examine the gorilla without anesthesia.
Alegent Creighton Clinic Cardiac Center volunteers the equipment and ultranagrapher.
Echocardiogram testing is important for gorillas because cardiac disease is a problem in all great apes.
Due to the importance of these species and the severity of the disease problem, the Great Ape Heart Project, dedicated solely to cardiovascular evaluations in great ape species, was established with the support of the Species Survival Plan for all major great ape species.
Cardiac disease is the number one cause of morbidity and mortality in captive Western lowland male gorillas.
The earlier cardiac disease is diagnosed, the sooner it can be addressed and treated, leaving a better long term prognosis for the gorilla.
Since 2007, the Zoo has done echocardiograms approximately every 16 months on the male gorillas.
The female gorillas have had echocardiograms completed two times and in 2011 the Zoo completed echocardiograms on all of the orangutans.
Of the nine adult and sub-adult male gorillas who call Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium home, six have been diagnosed with heart disease and are currently on cardiac medication.