The Little Rock Zoo

.The Little Rock Zoo needs to step up and care for the animals better! Please read the several artciles here with deaths, sickness and a bald chimp!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Blood Types of Chimpanzees, Bonobos, Orangutans, and Gorillas

In April 2005, Mumbali, an adolescent female gorilla, was dying of a mysterious infection at Lincoln Park Zoo.
In a last-ditch effort to save her life, veterinarian and keepers anesthetized both Mumbali and Kwan, a male gorilla, then laid them side by side to send Kwan's blood directly from his arm into hers.

It was a crude procedure, similar to the way transfusions were done for humans before the blood bank was invented at Cook County Hospital in 1937.

But there was little to go on in the veterinary literature, which had nothing about whether or not gorillas have different A-B-O blood groups like humans or if they needed to have blood matched to their own for a successful transfusion.
"It's one of the most basic pieces of knowledge we need for the care of our animals, and it simply wasn't there," ape-keeper Jill Moyse said.

Mumbali died despite their emergency interventions. Afterward, as keepers and veterinarians met to grieve her passing, Moyse told them Mumbali's death "could only make sense if we can make something good come out of it."

Five years after that impromptu discussion, Moyse and Kathryn Gamble, the zoo's chief veterinarian, have created an entirely new body of literature on great ape hematology. Just as importantly, they have produced an international registry to record the blood types of captive apes on four continents.

The registry represents all four great ape species — gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos, which are sometimes called "pygmy chimps." In North America, it encompasses nearly every healthy male and female adult of the species who could donate blood if another ape of its species with the same blood type needed a transfusion.

"You don't want to transfuse the wrong type of blood because a transfusion reaction can make a bad situation even worse," said Gamble, who recently published the project's research in the journal Zoo Biology.
"These are small populations," she said, "so emergency calls for blood are pretty rare. But when you need it, you really, desperately need it."

Before the project began, the only species of great apes with known blood groups were chimpanzees, the majority of which have Type A blood. That is known because chimps are frequently used as stand-ins for humans in medical research.

To learn more, the Lincoln Park project turned to a Danish company, Eldon Biologicals, which a few years ago revolutionized blood typing with small, chemically coated cards. A small smear of blood on the cards almost instantaneously reveals the donor's blood type.

Gamble and Moyse sent the cards out to North American and European zoos with ape collections and to African and Asian sanctuaries that rehabilitate injured and abandoned wild apes to restore them to the wilderness.

"Everybody we contacted liked the idea of what we are doing," Moyse said.

Because U.S. customs has strict controls about importing blood products, sanctuaries that lacked personnel to do the card analysis could not send the cards to Chicago, so Moyse sent them digital cameras to photograph the completed cards, e-mailing the photo for analysis at Lincoln Park.

Once the cards went out, it was several years before most eligible apes in the covered institutions had their analyses done.
Getting a blood sample from apes is no easy task. Though the test needs only a tiny blood smear, most big apes won't willingly undergo a jab of a sharp needle for a blood sample.

Because anesthesia is risky, keepers won't put animals down just for a blood sample. They do, however, anesthetize each of their adult apes roughly every two years for thorough physicals, so the project had to wait to get its blood.
As the blood typing cards returned to Chicago from around the world, Gamble said they are revealing new information about the great apes.

The project has verified that the blood of different ape species isn't interchangeable between species or humans, she said. It found that bonobos have only Type A blood, while orangutans have all four types, A, B, AB and O.AB and O.
"Gorillas so far are somewhat confusing and frustrating," Gamble said. "Although all of their cards came back as Type O, it is clear from genetic evaluation from our collaborators at the University of Chicago that gorillas don't, in fact, have all the same blood type."

After Cook County started the world's first blood bank, the idea spread quickly, saving uncounted millions of lives in World War II and opening postwar development of surgical procedures like open-heart surgery and organ transplants.
Thomas Meehan, who heads the gorilla Species Survival Plan veterinary board for all North American zoo gorillas, said the ape blood- type registry could do for apes what the blood bank did for humans.

"There have been times when we have done procedures, like brain surgery, when we had to remind the surgeons that they couldn't call down to the blood bank for another bag of blood," Meehan said.

In particular, it may result in new, lifesaving surgical procedures for apes, as the registry allows for blood supplies that "will enable us to utilize more advanced procedures" he said.


the meantime, Moyse is beginning to experiment with getting apes to voluntarily give blood when keepers ask for it, working with Kwan, the male gorilla blood donor in the failed attempt to save Mumbali.

"Kwan volunteers to put his arm into a PVC blood sleeve and he allows us to manipulate his arm and stick a (small) 26 gauge needle in his vein for a minute or so, and we're trying to build that time up so that eventually we can get significant blood amounts," Moyse said. "We reward him with tomatoes, fruit and juice that he is fond of."
Three years ago, Moyse also went to Africa to further train ape sanctuary workers.

"They were superexcited to learn the blood typing and how to do transfusions," she said. "They see a lot of animals come into them nearly dead from wounds made by poachers and bush meat hunters, and now the sanctuaries have these tools that might finally save some of these animals."

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