Ebola Is Wiping Out the World’s Gorillas
In just four decades, Ebola has wiped out one third of the world’s chimp and gorilla populations. If it continues, the results will be devastating.
While coverage of the current Ebola epidemic in West Africa remains centered on the human populations in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, wildlife experts’ concern is mounting over the virus’ favorite victims: great apes.
Guinea, where the epidemic originated, has the largest population of chimpanzees in all of West Africa. Liberia is close behind. Central Africa is home to western lowland gorillas, the largest and most widespread of all four species. Due to forest density, the number of those infected is unknown. But with hundreds of thousands of ape casualties from Ebola, it’s doubtful they’ve escaped unscathed.
Animal activists are ramping up efforts to find an Ebola vaccine for great apes, but with inadequate international support for human research, their mission could be seen as competing with one to save humans. Experts from the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada insist such apprehension would be misplaced. Two streams of funding—one for humans, one for apes—can coexist in this epidemic, they assert, and must.