Tourists could infect wild mountain gorillas with Covid-19

Tourists could infect wild mountain gorillas with Covid-19

Mountain gorillas are in danger from tourists

TOURISTS could be spreading Covid-19 among wild mountain gorillas by taking selfies with them without taking precautions.

It has been reported by researchers from the University of Oxford Brookes, in the United Kingdom, who examined almost 1,000 Instagram posts of people visiting mountain gorillas in East Africa.

They found that the majority of tourists who took photos of themselves with gorillas were close enough to the animals without a mask that the transmission of viruses and diseases was probable.

Lead author and Oxford Brookes University Primate Conservation alumnus Gaspard Van Hamme says that “the risk of disease transmission between visitors and gorillas is very worrying.”

He added that it was vital to strengthen and enforce hiking regulations to ensure that gorilla walking practices do not further threaten these great apes that are already in danger.

Dr Magdalena Svensson, a professor of biological anthropology at Oxford Brookes University, said that in the photos, tourists “rarely wore face masks”, but she added that she hoped that in future it would become a more common practice.

Mountain gorillas are endemic to the East African region. They are present in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Virunga National Park), Uganda (Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park) and Rwanda (Volcanoes National Park). In recent years the number of gorillas has started to increase and there are now an estimated 1,063 individuals.

Hiking is an important source of income for the conservation of the mountain gorilla and seeing tourists sharing their close encounters with mountain gorillas on Instagram causes future tourists to expect the same experience. But large numbers of visitors can have damaging effects on the environment, and although guidelines for mitigating them include maintaining a minimum distance of seven meters between visitors and gorillas, the Oxford Brookes study shows that they are not properly followed or enforced.

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Jennifer Leighfield

Jennifer Leighfield, born in Salisbury, UK; resident in Malaga, Spain since 1989. Degree in Translation and Interpreting in Spanish, French and English from Malaga University (2005), specialising in Crime, Forensic Medicine and Genetics. Published translations include three books by Richard Handscombe. Worked with Euro Weekly News since November 2006. Well-travelled throughout Spain and the rest of the world, fan of Harry Potter and most things ‘geek’.