The Memphis Zoo and the American Heart Association Spotlight Heart Disease in Great Apes and U.S. Women
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The Memphis Zoo and the American Heart Association Spotlight Heart Disease in Great Apes and U.S. Women

MEMPHIS, TENN. – The Memphis Zoo is partnering with the American Heart Association to “Go Red” the first week of February. Visitors will notice red lights illuminating each of the animal statues on the Zoo’s entry plaza.  

Heart health is important for humans and animals alike. As part of the yearly check ups of the great ape species exhibited at the Memphis Zoo, trained veterinarian staff performs a complete cardiac workup on four western lowland gorillas, three adult Sumatran orangutans and four adult bonobos.

“This cardiac workup includes radiographs and a full ultrasound of each animal’s heart,” said Dr. Felicia Knightly, senior veterinarian at the Memphis Zoo. “This workup allows us to measure the hearts, listen for murmurs, and look for specific heart-related diseases and conditions like that that affect humans, such as aortic aneurisms, cardiomyopathy, or valve deformities.  It’s always good to get checked out.”

Once staff members collect the data, the information is put into the Great Ape Heart Project database, a project that was founded at Zoo Atlanta. This project was formed so zoos have “norms,” or baseline data, for specific species of great apes.

“It allows us to better understand cardio issues within great apes,” Knightly said.

While male gorillas are prone to heart disease, it remains the number one killer of women in the United States. More women die of heart disease than the next four causes of death combined, including all forms of cancer. February is American Heart Month, and February 3 is National Wear Red Day, a component of the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women campaign to make women aware of their risk of heart disease and learn how to make healthy changes.

About the Memphis Zoo

The Memphis Zoo, located in Memphis, Tennessee, is home to more than 3,500 animals representing more than 500 different species. Recently named as one of the top zoos in the country and world by TripAdvisor® and USA Today’s 10Best, the Memphis Zoo has completed more than $93 million in renovation and expansion since the early 1990s. The Zoo's animal inhabitants reside in one-of-a-kind exhibitry, such as Once Upon A Farm, Commercial Appeal Cat Country, Primate Canyon, Animals of the Night, Northwest Passage, Teton Trek and CHINA - home to giant pandas YaYa and Le Le. Its newest exhibit, the Zambezi River Hippo Camp, is now open. The Zoo was founded in 1906 and resides on 70 acres in the middle of Overton Park. The Memphis Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Memphis Zoo, YaYa and Le Le are trademarks of the Memphis Zoo.


About the American Heart Association  

The American Heart Association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. Our mission is to build healthier lives by preventing, treating and defeating these diseases – two of America’s leading killers. We fund cutting-edge research, conduct lifesaving public and professional educational programs, and advocate to protect public health. To learn more or join us in helping all Americans, call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or visit

Posted by Zoo Info at 8:00 AM