"So much of the focus on this issue has been in Africa, but there, the interface between humans and other primates is decreasing," said Jones-Engel, a senior research scientist in the Division of International Programs at the UW's Washington National Primate Research Center. "The intensity of bush meat hunting and infectious diseases have taken a huge toll on primate populations there. Individuals in Africa who are interacting with other primates are often very isolated from other humans they live in small, rural villages, which limits the potential spread of pathogens."
In Asia, however, monkeys are often respected or revered because of cultural and religious traditions. The rapid expansion of cities and the decline of wild habitats have driven many monkey populations into urban areas, Jones-Engel said, where they interact more closely with large, interconnected populations of people.
In one state in northern India, for example, researchers estimate that more than a quarter-million rhesus macaques, or about 86 percent of the wild population, live in urban areas because of habitat loss. Unlike the great apes, such as chimpanzees or gorillas, rhesus macaques and other species of monkeys are very adaptable to new habitats.
"Some macaque species thrive in human-altered environments, given the tolerance of the local people," said Dr. Gregory Engel, clinical assistant professor of family medicine at the UW and a co-author on this study.
The group's findings support the notion that viral transmission could occur in any one of many settings in Asia, from religious temples to urban areas, and that the issue could affect
|Contact: Justin Reedy|
University of Washington