The gorillas at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo are getting greener diets in hopes of helping their overall health.
Male gorillas "Bebac" and "Mokolo" have a new menu that includes dandelion greens, romaine, green beans, endive and alfalfa hay -- about 10 pounds of veggies a day.
Gone from their diets are processed biscuits, a long-time staple for gorillas in zoos. Instead, apples, bananas and flax seed supplement the diet.
"This new diet has higher levels of fiber than traditional gorilla diets and reduced simple sugars," said Christopher Kuhar, Ph.D., the Zoo's curator of primates and small mammals. "Our goal is to find the healthiest diet possible for our gorillas."
Bebac and Mokolo, both male Western lowland gorillas, underwent complete health exams and major cardiac workups on October 10, at the Zoo's Sarah Allison Steffee Center for Zoological Medicine. Zoo veterinarians hope the new, leafier diet will affect the gorillas' overall health in a positive manner, and Zoo behaviorists hope it will promote more active behaviors that can enhance their well-being.
A cardiac ultrasound on Bebac revealed that the 25-year-old gorilla's heart disease has improved since February 2008, when he was first diagnosed and started receiving human heart medications, including beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors.
The ultrasound on Mokolo, 22, showed his heart disease has progressed since being diagnosed a year-and-a-half ago. He started treatment with ACE inhibitors in February 2008 and now will start taking beta-blockers, as well.
Zoo Veterinarian Albert Lewandowski, DVM, hopes the beta-blockers that seemed to help Bebac will do the same for Mokolo. He also hopes the 400-pound gorillas will benefit from having more roughage and fiber in their diets -- often a recommendation for people, too.
Lewandowski and Associate Veterinarian Christopher Bonar conducted the exams. Dr. Brian Williamson, a cardiologist at Beaumont Hospital in Michigan, donated his time to perform the ultrasounds. He was assisted by ultrasound specialist Rick Foutz of Philips Healthcare, which loaned a state-of-the-art 3-D ultrasound unit to the Zoo for the procedures.
Heart disease is common in male zoo gorillas, and Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is at the forefront in trying to figure out why. Dr. Pam Dennis, the Zoo's epidemiologist, is a leader of the Gorilla Health Project, which aims to improve the overall health of gorillas nationwide.
"Right now we're diagnosing and treating heart disease, but our ultimate hope is to prevent it in younger gorillas," Dennis said. "Our gorillas are on a good treatment plan and we'll be studying the effects of this new diet. We hope it improves their health and long-term survival."