Ebola is taking its toll on the critically endangered western lowland gorilla. There is hope that the vaccine for humans may be the answer, but there are some tough challenges involved.
Even if researchers find the vaccine effective in preliminary trials, it will be tough to vaccinate enough gorillas to make a difference. The gorillas are spread out throughout the Republic of Congo, Gaban, Cameroon and the Central African Republic, and they are notoriously difficult to find. For those reasons, shooting large numbers of them with dart injections of the vaccine could be a challenge. But if scientists try to hide oral vaccines in some of gorillas' favorite fruits, individuals could hoard them or other animals may get to them first.
"I think we're going to be able to protect particular populations, but not every gorilla," said William Karesh, vice president and director of wildlife health services at the Wildlife Conservation Society. "The urgent thing is to make sure we get some animals protected. That might buy us time to figure out some other strategies and mechanisms to protect them from going extinct."
The article does briefly note that the western lowland gorilla is thriving in zoos. It's the gorillas in the wild that may go extinct.
Photo by Tut99 (Roger).