We’re Making the Gorillas Sick! Stay Away From Them!

When I was a child, I saw that the goril­las, unlike all the oth­er ani­mals at the Colum­bus Zoo, were behind glass. My par­ents said that this was to keep the goril­las from catch­ing dis­eases like tuber­cu­lo­sis from the peo­ple who came to see them.

Goril­las look almost human because their genes are strik­ing­ly sim­i­lar to ours. Chim­panzees and bono­bos look even more human-like because their genes are even more like ours. The more DNA you have in com­mon, the more like­ly it is that you’ll be sus­cep­ti­ble to the same bac­te­ria and virus­es. Human beings prob­a­bly caught the first cas­es of AIDS from chim­panzees. Now there is a report from the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion that endan­gered wild goril­las are catch­ing a dead­ly virus from human beings! They are prob­a­bly catch­ing the dis­ease from the eco­tourists who go to see them!

On one hand, eco­tourism seems to be nec­es­sary to help pro­tect the goril­la habi­tat. On the oth­er hand, the dis­eases that the eco­tourists bring with them could be dead­ly to the goril­las.

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