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Rwanda: ‘Gorillas Safe From Ebola’
January 7, 2007, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

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Mountain gorillas in Virunga Park do not face a threat from Ebola, a senior official with Rwanda Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN), has said.Fidel Ruzigandekwe, the Executive Director of Rwanda Wildlife Authority, a department under ORTPN, said on Monday that the primates are not endangered as those in the Congo basin region.
He was reacting to a recent report published in a US science journal, which said that over 5,000 lowland gorillas in Central Africa had died from Ebola over the past five years.

“The disease was reported in lowland gorillas in the Congo basin but the gorillas in the region are not under threat,” Ruzigandekwe told The New Times on Monday. The mountain gorillas are shared between Rwanda, Uganda and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The Congo basin which covers DRC, Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic is located about 2000 kilometres from the Virunga Mist, home to hundreds of the Mountain gorillas.

Ruzigandekwe said there are both regional and international efforts to prevent the deadly disease from spreading to the apes.
He said that one of the existing efforts was that of the Mountain Gorilla Health Contingence Plan (MGHCP), which is shared by the three countries, which checks for possible disease outbreaks in the Virunga Mist.
“We (ORTPN) have alerted our DRC and Uganda counterparts about Ebola in the Congo basin, and we are watching the situation closely together,” said Ruzigandekwe.
According to science journal published last week, two scientists Dr. Peter D. Walsh and Dr. Stuart Nichol said that from October 2002 to January 2003, about 130 out of the 143 gorillas they ‘studied simply disappeared.’

Also, they said that 91 of 95 gorillas reportedly died from October 2003 to January 2004 and estimated that by 2005 Ebola had killed over 3,500 gorillas in the region since it was first recorded in 1976.
‘A lot of animals are dying’, said Dr. Walsh, an ecologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Primatology in Germany, one of authors of the report. ‘All the major parks in the DRC have serious hunting and poaching problems.’

It’s a slippery slope. Ebola is pushing the gorillas onto it, and other factors are pushing them down it,’ the report quotes him as saying.

The New Times (Kigali)

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