Great Ape Blood Typing

Zoo caregivers partnered with peers around the world to build a vital database of great ape blood types.

Improving Care for Gorillas, Chimpanzees, Bonobos and Orangutans

In March 2006, Lester E. Fisher Directory of Veterinary Services Kathryn Gamble, D.V.M., and Assistant Lead Keeper Jill Moyse started a project to catalog blood types for Species Survival Plan® populations of great apes. Their aim was to record blood types from apes housed in zoos throughout the United States as the animals underwent routine physicals.

At the time, no standard blood-type data had been determined for gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans in zoos. Knowing this information could improve veterinary care and reduce transfusion complications by matching ape donor and recipient blood types.

Eldon Biologicals, a Danish manufacturer of human blood-typing cards, donated hundreds of their products. The small cards—embedded with dried antibodies that reveal A, B or O blood types when mixed with water and small blood samples—were created for humans, but they also worked for great apes. Gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans have ABO blood types, which, though they have the same names, are different from those in humans.

The project has grown substantially since it began, including zoo populations in Europe and some African and Asian sanctuaries in addition to all accredited North American zoos housing great apes. To date, Gamble and Moyse have received more than 800 completed blood-typing cards. They have produced an invaluable body of knowledge to improve great ape care.


Kathryn Gamble, D.V.M., is Lincoln Park Zoo's Lester E. Fisher Director of Veterinary Medicine.  

Kathryn Gamble, D.V.M.
Dr. Lester E. Fisher Director of Veterinary Medicine, Veterinary Services

  Jill Moyse is assistant lead keeper at Lincoln Park Zoo's Regenstein Center for African Apes   Jill Moyse
Assistant Lead Keeper, Regenstein Center for African Apes
Steve Ross, Ph.D., is director of Lincoln Park Zoo's Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes

Steve Ross, Ph.D.
Director, Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes