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Researchers examine consequences of non-intervention for infectious disease in African great apes
Date:2/6/2012

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) Infectious disease has joined poaching and habitat loss as a major threat to the survival of African great apes as they have become restricted to ever-smaller populations. Despite the work of dedicated conservationists, efforts to save our closest living relatives from ecological extinction are largely failing, and new scientific approaches are necessary to analyze major threats and find innovative solutions.

In response to this crisis, researchers at UC Santa Barbara's National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) have conducted a pioneering study that illustrates how severely disease threatens the long-term survival of wild gorillas and chimpanzees. It also explores the status of potential interventions that may help ensure their continued existence. The article, "Consequences of Non-Intervention for Infectious Disease in African Great Apes," was recently published in the online journal PLoS ONE. The study indicates that mortality rates comparable to those recently reported for disease outbreaks in wild populations are not sustainable.

Sadie Ryan, the lead author, is assistant professor of ecology at SUNY-ESF in Syracuse, N.Y.; and Walsh is a quantitative ecologist at the University of Cambridge, England.

Modeling demonstrated that recovery times to current population levels from a single disease outbreak, under very optimistic rates of recovery, would range from five years for a flu-like outbreak, to 131 years for an Ebola virus outbreak that killed 96 percent of the population, according to the study. Population resilience is central to assessing disease threat because gorillas and chimpanzees reproduce more slowly than virtually any other animal on earth, including humans.

"These disease mortality rates are particularly troubling, given the rising pathogen risk due to increasing human contact with wild apes, associated with their habituation for tourism, poaching, and t
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Contact: George Foulsham
george.foulsham@ia.ucsb.edu
805-893-3071
University of California - Santa Barbara
Source:Eurekalert  

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