By Jennifer Viegas
Mon Feb 13, 2012 11:56 AM ET
Diseases are decimating great ape populations, to the point that some argue it’s time to issue vaccinations.
- Infectious disease has recently joined poaching and habitat loss as a major threat to African apes.
- Wild great ape recovery from disease is slow.
- Vaccinating gorillas and chimpanzees may be the best way to protect wild apes from disease.
Diseases — often transmitted by humans — are decimating great ape populations, to the point that some are now calling for vaccinating gorillas and chimpanzees.
Over the last two decades, the Zaire strain of Ebola has killed roughly one-third of the world’s gorilla population and only a slightly smaller proportion of the world’s chimpanzees, according to a new study in the journal PLoS ONE.
That means that infectious disease is now a major threat to the survival of African great apes, along with poaching and habitat loss.
“The situation is now getting so bad that if we don’t take the gloves off and get more invasive, there is not much hope for long term ape survival,” co-author Peter Walsh, a quantitative ecologist at the University of Cambridge, told Discovery News.
Walsh and colleague Sadie Ryan, an assistant professor of ecology at SUNY-ESF in Syracuse, analyzed how disease outbreaks have affected great ape populations over the years.