Wednesday, February 24, 2010

cobby gets physical

San Francisco Zoo's geriatric chimp passes physical with flying colors

Doctors from the University of California San Francisco, and Veterinary... ( Maria J. Avila Lopez )

For an old guy, Cobby did well on his physical exam.

A cardiac ultrasound showed mild hypertension, but his body X-rays showed no surprises. His doctors were thrilled. There had been no fast food binges for this chimpanzee.

At age 52, Cobby is the oldest male chimp in an accredited zoo in the United States and Europe and Jacqueline Jencek, chief of veterinary services for the San Francisco Zoo, where Cobby lives, wasn't about to do just any old exam on him Wednesday. His was on a par with those performed on humans.

"We're pretty proud he's the oldest," she said. "If he makes it to 60, that will be the equivalent of us making it to 100 or 105."

For the geriatric workup, a cardiologist and an ultrasound technician from the University of California, San Francisco, volunteered to assist so he could have a complete heart workup. Siemens Medical Solutions USA donated the use a state of the art cardiac ultrasound machine for the day, one they use for demonstrations and won't be used on humans. And Jencek used the zoo's digital X-ray machine, made possible for them by a matching grant from the HEDCO Foundation.

Using the digital X-ray machine is much safer for the animals," Jencek said.

It allows them to have an image in nine seconds, far faster than the 10 to 15 minutes needed by older machines that used film. And it means the animals are under anesthesia for a much shorter period — the scariest part of the exam.

"I won't be happy until he's back in his house and is wide awake today," Jencek said before the exam started mid-morning.

The physical only took about an hour and a half but meticulous planning preceded the process. Cobby had to be sedated and then moved by a cart from the primate house to the zoo hospital, which immediately set off a screaming fit by his worried female roommates, Tallulah, 53, Minnie, 40 and Maggie, 47. They calmed after awhile.

Jencek has started training the zoo's animals to be injected by hand but Cobby has not yet had the training and had to be darted with a drug often used for children, an amnesiac that calms them down and makes them forget all about what happened later.

"This morning, he was alert enough to be angry at me when he pulled the dart out of his leg but he won't remember I darted him when he wakes up," she said.

At the zoo's hospital Cobby was weighed — 107.8 pounds — measured — 4 feet tall and then moved across the hall to the X-ray room. A staff of seven or eight humans hovered in scrubs.

Once Cobby was placed on an X-ray table, intubated as they say on TV, and hooked up to oxygen and a gas anesthetic, a variety of procedures got underway. He received three liters of fluids, "a little Chimpanzee Gatorade," Jencek said.

Then Cobby had X-rays. Blood and urine samples were taken. Dr. Dana McGlothlin, medical director of the cardiac care unit at UCSF hospital and Hillary Rubin, cardiac ultrasound technician at UCSF hospital, made the ultrasounds. Jencek and her staff joined them in watching Cobby's heart beat on the monitor.

"When I heard about this opportunity, I jumped at the chance," said McGlothlin, who's used to working with human patients. Rubin had a similar reaction: "it's a once in a lifetime experience," she said. "It's amazing."

A chimp's heart, she said, "looks just like a human heart. With a gorilla's heart, you cannot distinguish between it and a human heart." Not only that but "they tend to have the same cardiovascular diseases."

The whole time, Cobby's worried human keepers were watching through a glass window. After everything was done, they took turns going in to hold and rub his hand.

Just before noon, Cobby was bundled back up, placed on the cart and driven back to his quarters, where Jencek checked to make sure everything was OK and then tucked him in.

"He actually looked good for a geriatric chimp," McGlothlin said.

Contact Linda Goldston at 408-920-5862.

Cobby"s bio

Origin: Rescued from the exotic pet trade, birthplace unknown
Age: 52
Height: 4-foot tall
Weight: 107.8 pounds
Results of physical exam: Mild hypertension and thickening of the left ventricular wall.
Claim to fame: Oldest male chimp in an accredited zoo in the United States and Europe

article source San Jose Mercury News

yay! cobby! so glad that one of my fav guys is in top shape! although its no wonder the poor guy has hypertension, i recently saw another disturbing video posted by a visitor who thinks its funny to keep disturbing the animals when they are obviously upset. UG. ... interesting article, please check the link and view the series of pix from the procedure. i thought it was cool info on the similarities to the human heart and the pic of his hand is most incredible! i also loved how the keepers held his hand! i would love to hold his hand that would really be something. and his gal pals being upset when he left, sad but precious. thankx to dr jacqueline for all she and her staff do for the zoo friends!


  1. I am so glad Cobby is doing great !!! and the procedure is over and was a success. Mr.Cobby is adorable and always makes my day....Way to go precious Cobster!!! love ya!!!

  2. yes so glad that cobster is going strong!