Pharmacological Treatment of a Male Bonobo (Pan paniscus) with Suspected Dilated Cardiomyopathy Under Echocardiographic Control at Wilhelma, Stuttgart, Germany, a Single Center Experience
2018 Joint EAZWV/AAZV/Leibniz-IZW Conference
Tobias Knauf-Witzens1, Dr med vet, FTA Zoo- und Wildtiere; Tim Schäufele2, MD; Annika Weigold1, Dr med vet, FTÄ Zoo-, Gehege- und Wildtiere; Aimee Drane3, BSc; Birgit Blazey4, Dr med vet, FTA Pathologie; Karin Klingel5, Professor Dr med; Robert Shave3, BSc, MSc, PhD
1Wilhelma Zoological-Botanical Gardens Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany; 2Department of Cardiology, Robert-Bosch-Krankenhaus Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany; 3International Primate Heart Project, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Cardiff, UK; 4Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Office, Stuttgart, Fellbach, Germany; 5Department of Molecular Pathology, University Hospital Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany


During translocation, a group of 13 bonobos (Pan paniscus) was echocardiographically evaluated. One wild-born, approximately 33-year-old male, confiscated from a private owner 20 years ago, was diagnosed with a concentrically hypertrophied heart (left ventricular [LV] internal cavity dimension 5.0 cm, septal and posterior wall thicknesses 1.1 cm and 1.2 cm, respectively; relative wall thickness 0.48 and severely impaired LV systolic function (ejection fraction 23%). Therapy with an acetylcholinesterase (ACE) inhibitor (ramipril, 2.5 mg, SID) was initiated when medical training allowed echocardiographic monitoring of treatment efficacy. Within the following 18 months the bonobo improved: seven echocardiographic re-evaluations revealed improved LV function (LV EF 33%, LV internal cavity dimension 5.2 cm, septal and posterior wall thicknesses 1.1 cm and 1.2 cm, respectively; relative wall thickness 0.46; also, socialization within the group improved significantly, resulting in more playful and even impressive behavior and laughing.

Group composition was rearranged, leading to female attacks resulting in his death one week after a severe assault. Necropsy revealed fatal acute peritonitis without notifiable intestinal perforation. The cause was related to stress and not due to cardiovascular problems. Histologic and immunohistologic evaluation of his heart revealed a severe dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) without signs of myocarditis.

In conclusion, a rare case of successful medical therapy in a male bonobo is described. DCM was surveyed by echocardiography obtained through training, not influenced by narcotics. We deem this technique essential in monitoring treatment efficacy. The etiology of DCM in this animal is unknown; however, DCM appears frequent in older bonobo males.


The authors would like to thank the Ape Department of the Wilhelma for their assistance in the care and medical training of bonobo “Zorba”, without which he could have neither been monitored nor treated.


Speaker Information
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Tobias Knauf-Witzens, Dr med vet, FTA Zoo- und Wildtiere
Wilhelma Zoological-Botanical Gardens Stuttgart
Stuttgart, Germany

Tim Schäufele, MD
Department of Cardiology
Robert-Bosch-Krankenhaus Stuttgart
Stuttgart, Germany

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