News: News Archives
Ebola Outbreak Between 2001 and 2005 Killed 5000 Gorillas in Lossi Sanctuary
A Western Lowlands Gorilla
Gabon and the Republic of the Congo
More than 5000 gorillas were killed by the Zaire strain of Ebola virus in a 2700-square- kilometer area of West Central Africa between 2001 and 2005, according to a Brevium in the 8 December issue of Science
For years, scientists have been puzzled about how and why the disease spreads. Previous theories hypothesized that gorillas are infected with Ebola primarily through reservoir species—animals that carry the virus but do not fall ill. Examples of potential reservoir animals include several varieties bats, with which large primates may come in direct contact with during the dry season when fruit and other foods are scarce.
Magdalena Bermejo, a primatologist at the University of Barcelona, and colleagues contend that while reservoir species may play a role, there is mounting evidence of direct transmission of ZEBOV in social contacts between groups of gorillas. The virus causes hemorrhagic fever and death in 90% to 95% of infected gorillas.
With research conducted in the neighboring forests of the Lossi Sanctuary, the authors concluded that "ape species that were abundant and widely distributed a decade ago are rapidly being reduced to tiny remnant populations." Ebola virus combined with commercial hunting creates a "recipe for rapid ecological extinction," they said.
In a related news article, Gretchen Vogel writes that Peter Walsh of the Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (a co-author on the Brevium article) sees hope in countering the trend through vaccination campaigns for wild apes and more research to better anticipate outbreaks.
7 December 2006