Whipsnade Zoo chimpanzees first to be fitted with heart monitors

Chimpanzees, including Phil and Nikki, at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Two chimps at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire have become the first in the UK to be fitted with semi permanent heart monitoring devices.

Chimpanzees Phil and Nikki feature in a new ITV series, ‘The Zoo’, to be shown tonight at 8pm.

Phil and Nikki were chosen for the study as they are closely related to two young male chimpanzees that were diagnosed with cardiovascular abnormalities, thought to be genetic.

Under general anesthetic, the two adult males were fitted with tiny implantable heart monitors in their backs. Keepers then train the chimps to present their backs, so that they can download information from the device.

This means that for the first time, the chimps’ hearts can be monitored while they are awake. Until now, researchers have only been able to monitor the chimps hearts while they are sedated, meaning they have been unable to get a full picture of how the chimps' hearts are working.

The data is sent to experts at Cardiff Metropolitan University, who plan to analyse the information over a period of time. They hope that this will help them to understand why heart defects occur in chimps, if they can be prevented, and how they can be treated.

The study is part of the International Primate Heart Project, which focuses on cardiac health in great apes. Researchers say that apes in captivity have been known to die of cardiac disease, but that they do not know why. They hope that the study at Whipsnade will help them to come up with a solution.