Many countries and territories around the world have reported cases of the new SARS CoV-2 virus, and the disease it causes in humans, the COVID-19. It is not yet known if great apes are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2. However, abundant scientific evidence shows that great apes are susceptible to infection with human respiratory pathogens. It is therefore safe to assume that great apes are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection too.
The IUCN SSC Wildlife Health Specialist Group and the Section on Great Apes of the Primate Specialist Group issued a joint statement on 15th of March 2020, calling for precautionary measures to be taken in order to minimize the potential for SARS-CoV-2 introduction to great apes in the wild.
The most effective preventive measure is to minimize direct and indirect contact between great apes and infected people. Strict adherence to best practices for prevention, as outlined in the IUCN Best Practice Guidelines for Health Monitoring and Disease Control in Great Ape Populations, is critical.
As great ape visitations by humans should be reduced to the minimum, suspension of great ape tourism and reduction of field research should also be considered, in conjunction with related risk assessments, economic compensation schemes and enhanced public health measures.
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