Coronavirus: Threat to Already Endangered Great Apes
Gorillas, Chimpanzees and other Great Apes under threat by COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
[Coronavirus (COVID-19) Threat Great Apes] – The Novel Coronavirus has hit humankind so hard and now primate scientists’ fear that the virus could pose a mortal threat to our closest living relatives including Gorillas and Chimpanzees.
Already endangered Great apes are threatened by the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) that has already affected over a million people in the globe.
There are four types of Great apes alive today and these are Gorillas, bonobos and Chimpanzees all in Africa as well as the Orangutans in SouthEast Asia.
Humans are closely related to great apes, sharing a common ancestor several million years ago. Humans share about 97% -99% DNA with Great Apes. Conservation Experts from the Great Ape Health Consortium released a letter in Nature (https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00859-y) explaining the risk of Coronavirus on great apes.
25 Disease researchers, conservationists and other experts note that primates are susceptible to human respiratory diseases, sometimes fatally. Viruses, some of which have been traced to humans and cause just mild symptoms in people, have sickened and killed apes in several African countries. [Coronavirus (COVID-19) Threat Great Apes]
“We’re most concerned because we’ve seen these major mortality events linked to respiratory diseases from humans that cause minor illness in humans,” Thomas Gillespie, a disease ecologist at Emory University and a lead author of the letter, said in an interview. “Apes are endangered primarily because of habitat loss and poaching, and more and more we’re seeing that disease is becoming an important co-factor in their endangerment.”
They stated that, as leading experts in the conservation and health of these animals they urge governments, conservation practitioners, researchers, tourism professionals and funding agencies to reduce the risk of introducing the virus into these endangered apes.
It is unknown for now whether the morbidity and mortality associated with the Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) in humans are similar in apes. However, transmission of even mild human pathogens to apes can lead to moderate-to-severe outcomes.
Conservation Experts from the Great Ape Health Consortium also recommended that great-ape tourism be suspended and field research reduced, subject to risk assessments to maximize conservation outcomes. However, they also warn that poaching could rise with fewer people in the vicinity.
Gorilla tourism has been suspended in Africa as well as other sanctuaries that host great apes such as orangutans have closed to the public. Dr Kirsten Gilardi chief veterinary officer for Gorilla Doctors, an organization that provides veterinary care to Gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo stated that;
“We don’t know if it’s infected Mountain Gorillas; we have not seen any evidence of that” she also added that “But because Mountain Gorillas are susceptible to human pathogens, we know that they can develop respiratory illness.”
All the three countries-Uganda, Rwanda and Congo that are home to Mountain Gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) have already registered several cases of COVID-19 patients.
Past research has shown that Chimps can contract the common cold virus and the Ebola virus is thought to have killed thousands of Chimpanzees and Gorillas in Africa. Coronavirus threat Great apes