Mountain Gorillas Face Human Health Hazard

As if mountain gorillas do not face enough survival problems, Earth Times reports they also face the problem of viruses passed on from humans.

Mountain Gorilla

A research paper found traces of a human pneumonia-type virus in two recent gorilla deaths.  With less than 800 mountain gorillas left, anything that adds to the list of threats – which includes habitat destruction, bush-meat traders and trophy hunters – is of major concern to conservationists.

We are very closely related to the mountain gorilla with a shared DNA of about 98%; that makes a species leap for viruses more likely. Additionally, mountain gorillas are increasingly fenced in by swelling human numbers in the areas surrounding their parks. The scope for contact is, therefore, much greater and gorilla tourism may widen that interaction further.

This discovery has implications for how human-gorilla interactions are managed. Mike Cranfield, from the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, said ”Because there are fewer than 800 living mountain gorillas, each individual is critically important to the survival of their species. But mountain gorillas are surrounded by people, and this discovery makes it clear that living in protected national parks is not a barrier to human diseases.”

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