Coronavirus poses lethal threat to great apes, experts warn

Posted in 25/03/2020

The Bageni family in the gorilla sector of Virunga National Park. Photograph: Brent Stirton/Getty Images/WWF-UK

The coronavirus pandemic could wipe out populations of chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans, leading scientists have warned.

Our closest living relatives, which share about 98% of human DNA, are known to be susceptible to catching respiratory diseases from people.

Even pathogens producing mild symptoms in humans have been lethal to great apes in the past. The fact that Covid-19 is fatal for some humans leads experts to fear it could potentially prove devastating to great apes.

No great apes have yet been reported to have contracted Covid-19, so the true impact is unknown. But many great apes are already at risk of extinction due to forest destruction and poaching, so the researchers say closing national parks, reserves and zoos must be seriously considered.