As people take precautions against the pandemic, gorillas breathe easier

Just over 1,000 mountain gorillas remain in the wild, divided between national parks in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Many species of gorillas have been intentionally inhabited by humans to help facilitate both research and ecotourism.

Apes face many threats, including poaching and habitat loss, but respiratory disease is also a major concern and a leading cause of death in mountain gorillas.

Outbreaks of respiratory disease have become common among animals. “They happen frequently,” says Dr. Gilardi, a wildlife veterinarian at the University of California, Davis. “And we don’t always know what causes them.”

Bacteria and viruses naturally circulate among gorillas and other apes, some of which can cause respiratory infections. But scientists have also recorded many cases in which human pathogensincluding the rhinoceros and the coronavirus that causes the common cold, have found their way into great apes.

In many cases, respiratory viruses cause relatively mild and familiar symptoms in infected gorillas.

“They cough, they sneeze, they have a runny nose, they may roll their eyes, they may stop feeding, they are comatose, meaning they don’t want to get out of bed in the morning,” Dr. Gilardi said. (Gorillas do and sleep in their nests at night.) “They look and act just like us when they have an upper respiratory infection.”

But these outbreaks can sometimes cause serious illness, including pneumonia, or even death. In 2009, human respiratory virus Eleven out of 12 gorillas in a family group in Rwanda fell ill. Five of the animals required veterinary care and two others, including an infant, died. As people take precautions against the pandemic, gorillas breathe easier

Fry Electronics Team

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