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.