Science News

Bad News For Gorillas

Sun, 10th Dec 2006

Part of the show Dark Matter, Life on Mars and Galactic Collisions

Ebola is one of the worlds most virulent viruses and it may be wiping out the last few remaining mountain Gorillas. That's according to a study published this week by an international team of scientists lead by Magdalena Bermejo from the University of Barcelona, who studied the deaths of gorillas in west Africa following outbreaks of Ebola among humans. Repeated outbreaks of Ebola have occurred in West Africa where it is thought to have killed 1000 people since it was first recorded in 1976. Ebola causes massive internal and external bleeding, known as viral haemorrhagic fever and while Scientists are still working on a vaccine, there is currently no known cure for Ebola. Back in 2002 and 2003, there were several outbreaks of Ebola among humans in Gabon and the republic of Congo - and now researchers have confirmed that this was linked to a massive die-off of gorillas in a nature reserve in Congo, with an estimated five thousand gorillas killed - it is thought that ebola may already have killed a quarter of all gorillas in the world. Possibly the most worrying outcome of this study was the discovery that the gorillas appear to be transmitting the disease between each other at a much faster rate than in humans - so that together with commercial hunting for these magnificent animals, the increased threat of ebola could truly devastate the remaining populations of gorillas and could push them to extinction.


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