Airdate: May 01, 2001
Scientist: William Karesh
Wildlife Veterinarian: Gorilla Health
Wildlife is susceptible to many of the same infectious diseases that afflict humans.
Wildlife Veterinarian - Gorilla Health
Music; Ambience: gorilla grunting, gorilla vocalizations
The creatures of the rain forest are at risk from a whole range of human activities - from hunting to destruction of their habitat. Scientists say that in central Africa, some wild animals are facing another threat from human beings, the measles. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
"Humans and gorillas share about a hundred fifty infectious diseases because we're so closely related."
William Karesh is a field veterinarian with the Wildlife Conservation Society. After an outbreak of the Ebola virus decimated the population of gorillas and chimpanzees in the African country of Gabon, Karesh and his team were asked to do a medical checkup on the western lowland gorillas that live in a neighboring rain forest park. Well, after tracking down selected gorillas and immobilizing them with an anesthetic, they took blood samples.
"We can get a historical profile of all the infectious diseases they've been exposed to. Do they have antibodies against tuberculosis, or do they have antibodies against influenza virus. We were surprised with the gorillas to find out the number of infectious diseases - probably fifteen to twenty - that they have already been exposed to. And it's probably the result of thousands of years of human encroachment in those habitats. Even though we think of them as wild places, native people have been living there for hundreds of thousands of years, and making contact with gorillas from time to time."
It turns out that none of the gorillas that were tested had been exposed to measles, which has been known to kill gorillas in captivity.
"So that's something we can actually protect them from, by working with the local human communities and the park staff and the researchers, to make sure they're all vaccinated for measles."
To hear about our new CD, please visit pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.