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Great Ape Heart Project Announces Move to Detroit During Heart Month

By The Detroit Zoo

The Great Ape Heart Project (GAHP) is now based at the Detroit Zoo. Launched in 2010, the GAHP is a group of dedicated experts who provide a network of clinical, pathologic and research strategies to aid in understanding and treating cardiac disease in all ape species.

Gorillas and orangutans are classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Chimpanzees and bonobos are listed as endangered by the IUCN. Cardiovascular disease, or heart disease, is the leading cause of death observed for each species in zoos.

“The Great Ape Heart Project was created to address a specific need in the zoological community,” said Dr. Hayley W. Murphy, director emeritus of the GAHP and executive director/CEO of the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS). “It’s critical to investigate, diagnose and treat heart disease among great apes. The information that comes from this international, multi-institutional project saves lives around the world.”

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Originally based at Zoo Atlanta, this collaborative project was founded to create a centralized database that analyzes cardiac data, generates reports and coordinates cardiac-related research.

“For more than a decade, the project has maintained a hub for researchers that includes more than 90% of the individual great apes in institutions that are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The project allows participants to compare and contrast data from nearly 80 institutions,” said Dr. Marietta Danforth, director of the GAHP. “Prior to this move, Detroit was like a second home for us because we had so many fruitful meetings here at the Zoo. It’s exciting to have it be our home base now.”

The GAHP received the prestigious 2020 Research Award from the AZA. The award recognizes achievements in advancing scientific research among accredited zoos and aquariums throughout the U.S.

To help support the GAHP this Heart Month, limited-edition shirts are available at All the proceeds will help prevent, diagnose and treat heart disease in great apes.

The Detroit Zoo is home to three gorillas and 12 chimpanzees who can be seen at the Great Apes of Harambee. This 4-acre habitat is located in the Zoo’s African Forest.

The Detroit Zoological Society – a renowned leader in humane education, wildlife conservation, animal welfare and environmental sustainability – operates the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Center.  With an annual regional economic impact of more than $167 million, the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak is one of Michigan’s largest paid family attractions, hosting more than 1.3 million visitors annually.  Its 125 acres of award-winning naturalistic habitats are home to 2,800 animals representing 239 species.  The Belle Isle Nature Center sits on a 5-acre site surrounded by undisturbed forested wetlands on Belle Isle State Park in Detroit.  For hours, prices, directions and other information, call (248) 541-5717 or visit

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