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SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus responsible for the current covid 19 pandemic, could be a ‘threat’ to great ape populations, including orangutans, chimpanzees, and gorillas, according to research from the journal Nature.
Scientists have therefore urged governments, conservation practitioners, researchers, tourism professionals, and funding agencies to ‘reduce the risk of introducing the virus into these endangered apes’ .
There are no great apes are reported to have contracted the virus. However, experts say ‘transmission of even mild human pathogens to apes can lead to moderate-to-severe outcomes’.
“In the present situation, we recommend that great-ape tourism be suspended and field research reduced, subject to risk assessments to maximize conservation outcomes (for example, poaching could rise with fewer people in the vicinity)” the journal’s abstract reads.
“Such efforts should include ways to offset the loss of earnings from tourism while taking care not to interfere with work to save human lives.”
According to the Guardian, researcher Thomas Gillespie said: “The Covid-19 pandemic is a critical situation for humans, our health and our economies. It’s also a potentially dire situation for great apes. There is a lot at stake for those in danger of extinction.
“People who are younger, who may be less at risk for severe illness from Covid-19, are the ones who are more likely to be hiking into the national parks of Africa and Asia to see great apes in the wild.
“It would be extremely difficult to monitor whether they were infected with Covid-19 since they may not have obvious symptoms.”