GRASP’s Ebola & Great Apes Examines Future Disease Threats

The direct and deadly links between Ebola outbreaks in humans and contact with chimpanzees and gorillas and options for prevention are analyzed in Ebola & Great Apes, an information booklet produced by the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP).

Great apes and humans are so genetically similar that diseases that can impact one species can easily impact the other.

GRASP includes the monitoring of Ebola, anthrax, Marburg and other emerging infectious diseases among its priority work areas.

“It is extremely important that GRASP continues to focus on the zoonotic links between great apes and humans,” said GRASP coordinator Doug Cress. “All of the conservation efforts to date could easily be swept aside by a single outbreak of Ebola or another pandemic, and we need to examine the evidence to date to best be able to prepare for potential crises going forward.”

Ebola outbreaks in Africa since the 1970s have infected an estimated 30,000 people and claimed almost 15,000 lives. The outbreak in West Africa that began in 2014 was the deadliest on record, with over 11,000 fatalities.

Ebola has also decimated critically endangered populations of gorillas and chimpanzees across equatorial Africa, including an outbreak in 1995 that killed more than 90 percent of the gorillas in northeastern Gabon. As development pushes human populations deeper into primary forests, more outbreaks of Ebola and other similar zoonotic diseases are likely to occur.

Ebola & Great Apes was derived from a literature review produced by Dr. Siv Anina Leendertz of the Robert Koch Institute, in collaboration with GRASP. It delivers important insight into the pressure Ebola exerts on populations of great apes, in addition to exploring future approaches to reduce spread of the disease between great apes and humans.

Ebola & Great Apes is available in English and Chinese, with a French-language version to be released in 2017.  The booklet is an important source of information for GRASP and its many partners working to save critically endangered populations of gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos in Africa, and will act as a vital tool in informing GRASP’s policies going forward on Ebola and other threatening zoonotic diseases.

GRASP is the unique alliance of 105 national governments, conservation organizations, research institutions, United Nations agencies and private companies, each committed to ensuring the long-term survival of great apes and their habitats in Africa and Asia. For more, visit www.un-grasp.org or contact [email protected].

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