Big-Hearted Zoo Gorilla Helps Science...

Atmosphere - The 365 pound gorilla lying on his back on a bed of straw is helping medical science. Researchers are at Paignton Zoo Environmental Park to collect information on his heart in an attempt to understand heart disease in great apes - including humans. Upstairs, visitors gaze in wonder at the interactions of the other gorillas. Downstairs, experienced professionals - most of them part of Paignton Zoo's in-house team - monitor blood pressure, breathing and pulse. Matadi, a 12-year old Western lowland gorilla, is having a routine check-up before moving to another collection - Howletts Wild Animal Park in Kent. In addition, researchers from Cardiff Metropolitan University are collecting data on his heart. The International Primate Heart Project is based at Cardiff Metropolitan University and led by Professor of Cardiovascular Physiology Rob Shave. Two of his colleagues are at Paignton Zoo: Mike Stembridge, a cardiovascular physiologist studying for his PhD specialising in cardiac ultrasound; and Javier Martinez, a qualified vet who is studying for his PhD examining the electrocardiogram in great apes. The IPHP works with zoos, sanctuaries and other bodies around the world. It's one of a number of such studies; EAZA, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, is developing a collaborative approach to the investigation of cardiovascular disease among the great ape population in European zoos. Matadi is impressive. His feet look like hands and his hands look like cycle helmets. His head is huge; his chest is deep and broad. There's what appears to be a tube from a vacuum cleaner in his mouth - it's part of the system that's keeping him breathing. Although he is motionless save for the rise and fall of his massive chest, there's a bustle of activity around him. A team of nine zoo keepers, vets and vet nurses is hard at work. The procedures are familiar: he has an ultrasound scan, complete with cold gel on the end of a probe. There's a saline d - Paignton, United Kingdom - Tuesday 28th April 2015 (4 Pictures)


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