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.