Ebola virus has decimated over 5,000 gorillas

In July of this year, I shared with you an overview of a publication that outlined how social organisms, like gorillas are so very susceptible to getting and dying from Ebola. A gorilla is seen here in Plateaux Bátéke National Park in the African country of Gabon.In my post I criticized the authors for not fully attributing issues like deforrestation and poaching, that were also facilitating the decimation of the population and ultimately bringing Ebola closer to other gorilla populations.

Unfortunately, I have some related and very disheartening news to share with you. The first estimates of how many gorillas haved died has been circulating the press, if you haven’t noticed. The numbers are phenomenal. This virus has taken the lives of more than 5,000 gorillas in the Republic of Congo and Gabon. The original source of this number comes from a recent Science publication, “Ebola Outbreak Killed 5000 Gorillas” Here’s the abstract,

“Over the past decade, the Zaire strain of Ebola virus (ZEBOV) has repeatedly emerged in Gabon and Congo. Each human outbreak has been accompanied by reports of gorilla and chimpanzee carcasses in neighboring forests, but both the extent of ape mortality and the causal role of ZEBOV have been hotly debated. Here, we present data suggesting that in 2002 and 2003 ZEBOV killed about 5000 gorillas in our study area. The lag between neighboring gorilla groups in mortality onset was close to the ZEBOV disease cycle length, evidence that group-to-group transmission has amplified gorilla die-offs.”

This is a staggering number and it does not help conservation efforts at all. Things look very grim for gorillas, which are my favorite non-human primate species. I say that because the experts are saying Ebola is moving at a rate of around 31 miles (50 kilometers) per year in western and central Africa. And since most of the area’s remaining gorillas live within about 124 miles (200 kilometers) of the current outbreak, that’s around four more years for left for what little we have left of the gorilla population.

Other bloggers have posted about this, such as John Hawks and GrrlScientist, and I suggest you do too. Spread the word, maybe something can happen because of this. Gorillas, as well as chimps (who 85% of the population also died too because of Ebola) are affected by Ebola and I believe they should have a chance against it. If we can make isolated reserves and prevent contact from people, then these animals would be better off.

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