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Are Human Diseases Killing The Last Mountain Gorillas?

Are Human Diseases Killing The Last Mountain Gorillas?

A new study published by the Center for Disease Control provides evidence that interspecies transmission of infectious agents from humans to mountain gorillas is not only possible, it could also be causing the deaths of critically endangered animals.

The study was conducted by researchers from the nonprofit Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project; UC Davis; the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University; and the Rwanda Development Board.

What’s most troubling about the results, say researchers, is that the last remaining 786 mountain gorillas in the world live in two protected parks in Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo–and these parks are surrounded by the densest human populations in Africa.

According to the LA Times, the study focused on a 2009 outbreak among 12 gorillas that was blamed for the deaths of an adult female and a newborn infant. Tissue samples from the stricken animals revealed the presence of nucleic acid from a virus known to scientists as human metapneumovirus.

“These animals are so closely related to us that it is not all a surprise they are susceptible to human pathogens,” Kirsten Gilardi, assistant director of the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center told the LA Times. “There are some measures we can take to better protect mountain gorillas from incursions of human infections. For example, in an open-air environment, if people stay seven yards away or farther from a gorilla, it would be far less dangerous for that animal.”

Although mountain gorilla tourism helps ensure the sustainability of the species by generating much-needed revenue and increasing global awareness of the precarious status of this species in the wild, say the researchers, this tourism, however, also poses a deadly risk for disease transmission from humans to the gorillas.

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Image Credit: Flickr - d_proffer

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81 comments

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2:24AM PST on Feb 11, 2013

We should be affecting the nature constructively

9:01PM PST on Jan 3, 2012

if people are put on earth to do good unto others, we are failing miserably

10:28AM PDT on Apr 17, 2011

The gentle mountain gorilla's have been through such an ordeal over the years. Human's need to respect their space and leave them in peace. I am opposed to tourism if it means invasion of the gorilla's natural habitat.

11:45AM PDT on Apr 15, 2011

I pray every night for the tigers, lions, gorillas, chimpanzees, polar bears, wolves, whales, baby seals, and manatees. Please save endangered species.

6:38AM PDT on Apr 13, 2011

Wild animals are just that wild they serve a perpose on this planet and its not for our amusmeant...

1:33AM PDT on Apr 13, 2011

Wild animals should be WILD, not something for us to look at. If we want to see wild animals, go to animal planet or google images!

6:16AM PDT on Apr 10, 2011

thanks for sharing

11:47PM PDT on Apr 9, 2011

-well something of drastic measure with only 786 of these beautiful mountain gorillas left ..something has got to be done now! One member mentioned a electric fence around their forest home ..then another mentioned get them properly vacinated Those are great ideas! A law could be passed to stop all tourism sightings. Then lets start a petition for this!

11:00AM PDT on Apr 9, 2011

Stop Safaris and leave them alone!!!

7:32PM PDT on Apr 8, 2011

This sounds sad. Perhaps a 7-foot rule could be enforced, to make life safer for the gorillas.

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