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Zoo Partnership Helps Get to the Heart of Gorilla Condition

For Immediate Release: November 1, 2016

[Columbia, SC] — Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is offering a rare look into the specialized healthcare of exotic animals with a partnership intended to enhance the well-being of one of the Zoo’s male western lowland gorillas.

Riverbanks recently worked with two medical experts from South Carolina Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Care (SCVSEC) to perform a cardiac ultrasound and health check on Patrick, a 26-year-old silverback, when he exhibited unexpected weight gain.

“Heart disease is common in male gorillas, so we asked for the ultrasound and more in-depth assessment to rule out any medical conditions before altering Patrick’s diet,” said Dr. Martha Weber, senior veterinarian at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden.

SCVSEC’s Dr. Dan Hall, staff cardiologist, and Monica Waters, head cardiology technician, worked alongside members of Riverbanks’ veterinary team to perform the examination. “We found that Patrick is in overall good health,” said Weber. “We are now adjusting his regime for optimal nutrition.”

As an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Riverbanks provides the highest standards in veterinary medicine. The Zoo is among more than 230 AZA-accredited facilities that are dedicated to the advancement of wildlife conservation, education, science and recreation.

Weber adds that partnerships with veterinary and medical specialists are a critical part of the veterinary program at Riverbanks. “These relationships bring with them cutting-edge technologies and knowledge that help ensure our animals live longer, healthier lives.”

In addition, Riverbanks has previously worked with the Great Ape Heart Project based at Zoo Atlanta. The project addresses the critical need to investigate and understand cardiovascular disease in all ape species with the goal of reducing mortality and improving the welfare of great apes in professional care.