Cameron Park Zoo primate keeper receives prestigious award

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Cameron Park Zoo primate keeper Emily Ellison (right) has won the 2021 Susan D. Chan Author of the Year Award for her paper on Cardiac Workshops for Apes. (Courtesy: Cameron Park Zoo)

WACO, Texas – Cameron Park Zoo primate keeper Emily Ellison, and former Cameron Park Zoo primate zookeeper Laura Klutts have won the 2021 Susan D. Chan Author of the Year Award for their paper on Cardiac Workshops for Apes.

The two received their award on August 31 at the annual American Association of Zookeepers conference in Los Angeles.

Cameron Park Zoo stated in a press release Tuesday that cardiac disease is a major threat to great apes in managed care. To be proactive and preventative, the Zoo trains their orangutans several different non-anesthetized behaviors – including blood draw, blood pressure, echocardiograms and electrocardiography (EKG). These can be used as diagnostic tools by the veterinary staff in the event an orangutan develops heart
issues.

The Zoo works closely with the Great Ape Heart Project – which is based at Zoo Atlanta. The Project is a resource which compiles information regarding cardiac disease and acts as an advisory group to assist zoos. Its main goal is to reduce cardiovascular disease mortality by providing feedback on cardiac cases, training advice, disseminating information and coordinating research projects.

The Zoo’s cardio program started in 2013 with the training and completion of voluntary blood draw, and then evolved to encompass voluntary echocardiography and male arm blood pressure with the tough cuff in 2014. The program continued with the addition of the development of a female-sized tough cuff and training of obtaining arm blood pressure readings in 2015, and then finger blood pressure training and collection was added a year later in 2016. The most recent addition to the program occurred in 2018, with the introduction of voluntary electrocardiography (EKG).

In 2015, Cameron Park Zoo hosted an Orangutan Cardio Health Workshop to assist zookeepers and their facilities with training their orangutans for cardiac disease monitoring behaviors. In later years, the workshop has evolved and expanded to include all four great ape species. By partnering with the Great Ape Heart Project, even more facilities housing various species of apes have had the opportunity to gain information on how cardiac training can be used as a diagnostic tool.

Cameron Park Zoo’s next Cardio Health Workshop is scheduled for April 5th and 7th, 2022.

Source: Cameron Park Zoo

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