"Chimps Are Dying Of The Common Cold. Is Great Ape Tourism To Blame?"

"Viruses that cause mild sniffles in humans are devastating populations of chimpanzees and gorillas. In some ape communities, it’s a bigger killer than habitat loss or poaching".

"There was something wrong with the chimpanzees. For weeks, a community of 205 animals in Uganda’s Kibale national park had been coughing, sneezing and looking generally miserable. But no one could say for sure what ailed them, even as the animals began to die.

Necropsies can help to identify a cause of death, but normally, the bodies of chimps are found long after decomposition has set in, if at all. So when Tony Goldberg, a US wildlife epidemiologist visiting Kibale, got word that an adult female named Stella had been found freshly dead, he knew this was a rare opportunity to look for an answer.

Goldberg and two Ugandan veterinary colleagues drove for two hours to a remote part of the park, then lugged their gear for another hour through the forested terrain to where Stella’s body lay. They lifted the 45kg animal on to a tarpaulin, and got to work. Crouching over the chimp – sweating beneath their full-body protective suits, their goggles fogging in the humid air – they meticulously worked through Stella’s organ systems, collecting samples. Not knowing what had killed her was “unnerving”, Goldberg recalls. “It could have been Ebola.”"

Rachel Nuwer reports for the Guardian May 2, 2024.

Source: Guardian, 05/03/2024