C13 – Coronavirus poses lethal threat to great apes, experts warn

The following is taken from The Guardian.com

Even pathogens producing mild symptoms in humans have been lethal to great apes in the past. The fact that Covid-19 is fatal for some humans leads experts to fear it could potentially prove devastating to great apes.

The coronavirus pandemic could wipe out populations of chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans, leading scientists have warned.

Our closest living relatives, which share about 98% of human DNA, are known to be susceptible to catching respiratory diseases from people.
No great apes have yet been reported to have contracted Covid-19, so the true impact is unknown. But many great apes are already at risk of extinction due to forest destruction and poaching, so the researchers say closing national parks, reserves and zoos must be seriously considered.

Uganda has not announced a shutdown of gorilla tourism, although tourist traffic from Europe and elsewhere has dwindled.
A spokesperson for the Uganda Wildlife Authority, Bashir Hangi, said the decision on whether to shut down gorilla tourism is now academic as there is almost no business amid the outbreak.

Research in 2008 revealed the first direct evidence of virus transmission from humans to wild apes. Since then common human respiratory viruses have caused lethal outbreaks in wild great apes that have become used to people. In 2016 scientists reported the transmission of a human coronavirus to wild chimpanzees in the Taï National Park in Ivory Coast.

The number of surviving mountain gorillas has been rising, with about 1,000 now living in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, and the species was moved from critically endangered to endangered. It is the only great ape believed to be increasing in number.

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