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Scientists Work To Prevent Recent Ebola Outbreak From Decimating Gorillas And Chimps

The Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is working to prevent the recent Ebola virus outbreak from decimating wild populations of gorillas, chimpanzees and other wildlife in Gabon and neighboring Congo.

A team which includes scientists from WCS, World Health Organization (WHO), the Gabonese Center for Medical Research (CIRMF), and the European Community-funded conservation program ECOFAC have already discovered evidence of dead gorillas, chimpanzees, and duikers a forest antelope sometimes eaten by chimps.

"Human deaths have been confirmed with laboratory evidence this week, but this current outbreak suggests that gorillas and chimps are indeed at great risk as well," said Dr. William Karesh of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Field Veterinary Program.

WCS is particularly concerned that the outbreak could affect gorilla populations in Odzala National Park in neighboring Congo, home to tens of thousands of western lowland gorillas.

In response, WCS's partners at ECOFAC and the Congolese government have arranged to stop human traffic between the Ebola outbreak and the villages surrounding Odzala. Gabonese officials have also cordoned off the region to prevent traffic movements on the Gabon side.

Dr. Karesh and colleagues suspect that the last Ebola outbreak in the region four years ago resulted in the deaths of huge numbers of gorillas and chimps over thousands of square miles. Since then, the Wildlife Conservation Society has initiated a gorilla health program in the region to reduce risks of disease among gorillas.

Wildlife Conservation Society. December 2001.

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