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Tourists may be spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to wild mountain gorillas by taking selfies with animals

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Selfie, gorilla, risk of disease transmission

Mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) in Volcanoes National Park. Credit: Andrew Walmsley

Tourists may be spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to wild mountain gorillas by taking selfies with animals without taking precautions. Researchers at Oxford Brookes University examined nearly 1,000 Instagram posts and found that most gorilla trekking tourists were animals enough to allow transmission of viruses and illnesses without wearing a face mask. I found it close.


Examine photos of people visiting the mountains In East Africa, the lead author and graduate of Oxford Brookes University Primate Conservation, Gaspar Vanhame, said: The communication between the visitor and the gorilla is very worrisome. It is important to tighten and enforce tour regulations so that gorilla trekking practices do not further threaten these already dangerous apes. “

In January 2021, captive gorillas at the San Diego Zoo tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, indicating that the current pandemic could also affect large apes. Is shown. The photographs of tourists examined for this study found that people were close enough to animals that they could transmit the disease.

The importance of wearing a face mask

Dr. Magdalenas Benson, a lecturer in biological anthropology at Oxford Brookes University, said:People all over the world are accustomed to wearing face masks and hope to wear them in the future It will become a common habit of gorilla trekking. “

Number of balanced gorillas

Mountain gorillas are endemic to the East African region. They are located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Virunga National Park), Uganda (Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Magahinga Gorilla National Park) and Rwanda (Volcanoes National Park). Over the last few decades, these populations have suffered from the negative effects of human activity, but recently the number of gorillas has begun to increase and is now estimated at 1,063.

Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka of Conservation Through Public Health in Uganda said: “This survey provides a valuable perspective on how tourists share too close encounters. Create expectations for future tourists through Instagram. This underscores the great need for responsible tourism to provide adequate protection while minimizing the transmission of the disease, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic. “

Tourism: Environment and wildlife

Trekking is an important financial support for the protection of mountain gorillas. However, a large number of visitors can affect wildlife and the environment. Guidelines to mitigate these include maintaining a minimum distance of 7 meters between the visitor and the gorilla. Oxford Brookes studies show that these guidelines are not properly followed and implemented.

Russell A. Mittermeyer, chair of the IUCN / SSC Primates Specialist Group, who was not involved in this study, commented: With this in mind, it’s very exciting to see new research on this topic published by the Oxford Brookes University Primates Conservation Group. This study focuses on one species, mountain gorillas, but the lessons learned are many other primate species that are becoming more and more in contact with people. This research line will certainly be even more important in the future. “

Research paper “Keeping Distance: Using Instagram Posts to Assess Human Risk “Gorilla Ecotourism” has been released People and nature..


Tourists continue to carry the risk of transmitting the disease to endangered mountain gorillas


For more information:
People and nature, DOI: 10.1002 / pan3.10187 , besjournals.onlinelibrary.wile… l / 10.1002 / pan3.10187

Courtesy of Oxford Brookes University

Quote: Tourists can take a self with an animal (February 17, 2021) obtained from https: //phys.org/news/2021-02-tourists-virus- on February 17, 2021. , The virus that causes COVID-19 may be spreading to wild mountain gorillas. covid-wild-mountain.html

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