Tourists spreading Coronavirus: Gorillas and Chimpanzees in danger?
World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) warned COVID-19 spreading to animals
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Mountain Gorillas and Chimpanzees are an important and lucrative part of the travel and tourism industry in Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, and Congo. Conservationists in Africa are worried to see Mountain Gorillas and Chimpanzees in Africa get exposed to Covid-19 from humans visiting primate habitats in Eastern and Central Africa.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has recently warned over the possible spread of Covid-19 to Mountain gorillas living in Rwanda, Uganda, Congo, and the entire equatorial forest region in Africa.
As the virus infects more people around the world, conservationists are warning of the risk of Africa’s endangered mountain gorilla.
Other than Mountain gorillas, Chimpanzee communities in Western Tanzania, Uganda, and the rest of Central Africa are counted to be in the same danger from catching Covid-19 infection.
WWF has warned that primates share DNA with humans at 98 percent, saying the animals were at risk from contracting coronavirus infection.
Congo’s Virunga National Park and neighboring Rwanda have both closed to tourists to protect the gorillas. Uganda has not shut down its gorilla tourism, but a drop in visitors had limited the movement of people within the parks.
Mountain gorilla numbers have increased to just over 1,000 in recent years after a successful conservation campaign for the past 30 years, with their numbers increasing.
Famous primatologist in Africa Jane Goodall had expressed her worries over the possible spread of Covid-19 pandemic from humans to primates.
She said in London a few days ago that Great apes are known to be susceptible to human respiratory illnesses. In her sanctuaries for orphaned chimps, the staff is wearing protective gear as a precaution against COVID-19.
“It is a big worry because we can’t protect all the chimps across Africa and once the virus gets into them, which I pray it won’t, then I don’t know what can be done,” Jane said.
Rwanda is also temporarily shutting down tourism and research activities in three national parks that are home to primates such as gorillas and chimpanzees.
Mountain gorillas are prone to some respiratory illnesses that afflict humans. A common cold can kill a gorilla, WWF says, one reason why tourists tracking gorillas are generally not permitted to get too close.
About 1,000 mountain gorillas live in protected areas in Congo, Uganda, and Rwanda. Permitting the public to visit these areas is important and profitable. However, COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, led Virunga park officials to order the temporary ban.
Uganda has not announced a shutdown of gorilla park tourism. However, the number of visitors from Europe and other places has sharply decreased, making the parks going without big crowds of tourists.