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Studies show that tourists posing for selfies with wild gorillas are at risk of spreading COVID-19

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Wildlife tourists taking self-portraits with mountain gorillas are at great risk of developing coronavirus and other illnesses, the study said.

Scientists at Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom have studied hundreds of Instagram posts from travelers approaching an endangered gorilla. According to a press release, they found many examples of tourists getting close enough to primates to spread the disease and the virus.

“The risk of transmitting the disease between the visitor and the gorilla is of great concern,” said Gaspar van Hame, the lead author of the study. He began his research in the master’s program at the university.

“It is important to tighten and enforce tour regulations so that gorilla trekking practices do not further threaten these already dangerous apes.”

In this study, researchers used the hashtags #gorillatrekking and #gorillatracking to examine 858 photos of tourists with gorillas posted between 2013 and 2019.

The study preceded the coronavirus pandemic, but briefly posted a recent Instagram post that people who don’t wear masks or don’t wear masks properly are taking selfies with animals. You can find it.

Even before the pandemic, wildlife tourists visiting primates should keep a distance of at least 7 meters from the primates and wear face masks to limit their exposure to viruses and other illnesses. It was a policy to wear it.

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From the images surveyed, about 86% were within 4 meters of the gorilla and 25 were exposed to endangered primates.

Researchers say these tourists were certainly close enough to infect the disease.

In a statement, Magdalena Svenson, a lecturer in bio-anthropology at the university, said, “Tourists visiting gorillas rarely wear face masks, and the disease is transmitted between people and the gorillas they visit. I found that there was a possibility of doing so. “

she said CNN Visitors to wild gorillas were required to wear face masks as part of the “Best Practice Guidelines for Ape Tourism” developed under the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Face mask guides around endangered primates precede the pandemic.

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“They are so close to us genetically that we can get most of what we can get,” she said.

She added that she was in danger of being caught COVID-19 (new coronavirus infection) (# If there is no character limit, add parentheses when it first appearsGorilla is also at risk for other fatal illnesses such as influenza, Ebola, and even common colds through humans.

She said all tourists are told to keep a minimum distance of 7m from the gorilla. She said the analysis shows that the distance is decreasing over time.

Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that wild gorillas have been infected with COVID-19. However, in January, eight western lowland gorillas inhabiting the San Diego Zoo were infected with the virus.

A subspecies of the Eastern Gorilla, the Mountain Gorilla, is on the verge of extinction.

The rest of the wild population lives in the mountainous areas of extinct volcanoes adjacent to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, wild populations are estimated to be just over 1000.

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