Link: Why are captive gorillas getting heart disease?

The Atlantic has a wonderful long-read story by Krista Langlois looking into the heart health of captive male gorillas in the U.S.: “Something Mysterious Is Killing Captive Gorillas”.

Like many captive male gorillas, Mokolo suffers from heart disease—specifically, fibrosing cardiomyopathy, a condition that turns red, healthy heart muscle into bands of white scar tissue too rigid to pump blood. Although heart disease is nearly absent in wild populations, it’s the leading killer of captive male gorillas around the world. Roughly 70 percent of adult male gorillas in North America have heart disease, and often die prematurely as a result. Other great apes, such as orangutans and chimpanzees, suffer at similar rates.
For more than a decade, zookeepers, veterinarians, epidemiologists and others have struggled to figure out why heart disease is so prevalent among captive apes, and how to prevent the animals from developing it. Now they may be closing in on answer—one that lies not in the 20-ounce time bombs housed in gorillas’ chests, but in the microscopic bacteria that flourish in their guts.

The article covers the history of health and diet in zoo gorillas, talks about the ways that zoos have changed over the years, and focuses in on some of the science of diet in primates.

It’s such a good account of these issues that I’ve assigned the article to my 300 students.