Memorial doctors give chimp a check-up - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Memorial doctors give chimp a check-up

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- A Chimpanzee at the Chattanooga Zoo had his heart examined Wednesday by a "human heart doctor."

Students from the University of Tennessee's School of Veterinary Medicine were on hand to watch.

Zoos around the nation, including the Chattanooga Zoo, are taking pro-active steps for their chimps. Because data is scarce, our local zoo is teaming up with other zoos to share the information.

Chattanooga Zoo Executive Director Darde Long says,"Wow, a cardiologist working on one of our animals."

It wasn't just a wow moment for the Chattanooga Zoo, it was indeed a wow moment for cardiologist Dr. Bill Warren, who was administering Chattanooga's first ever echocardiogram on a chimpanzee.

"This is my first experience with an animal, other than taking care of my dog Sparky," Dr. Warren says. "So, I'm branching out a little bit."

Before you wonder why a human heart doctor would oversee the 180 pound chimp known as Goliath's procedure, Warren says it's basically the same as reading a human's echocardiogram.

But unlike humans, you have to sedate the big guy,

"As these animals are living longer in captivity, they're developing heart disease, some of the same types that I see in older patients in my practice," Dr. Warren says.

Heart disease is the number one killer of great apes. The Chattanooga Zoo is now taking steps to prevent it before it's too late. They're sharing their data with zoos around the nation.

"We used to look at them when they were really old, but now we're walking back," UT Zoo and Wildlife Professor Ed Ramsay says. "We can catch it and figure out what actually causes it."

The whole process took less than 20 minutes. Again, nobody entered the room until Goliath was sedated.

The average life span of a chimp in captivity is 40 years. Goliath is 35 years old and as we learned on Wednesday, he has a clean bill of health and his ticker is as strong as it should be.

"If his echo would have come across my desk at work I would have rated it a real human echo," Dr. Warren says. 

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