Gibbons – small apes living in the wild in Cambodia and China – could be at risk of catching COVID-19 from tourists.
Researchers at The Australian National University have found that the gibbons change their behaviour when tourists are around and that could weaken their immune systems and make them vulnerable to infection.
As pandemic restrictions ease and sightseeing resumes, the university’s Jessica Williams is urging tourists to wear masks and other personal protective equipment to keep the gibbons safe from COVID-19.
“Because we’re all primates, they may be able to catch something from us.”
“Disease transmission from and to humans is well-documented in the great apes like gorillas and chimpanzees,” she said.
Her research shows that gibbons become more alert and stressed when tourists enter their habitat, constantly scanning the environment for danger, which could lead to fatigue and weakened immune systems.
“This increase in scanning was coupled with a decrease in time spent resting, and rest is essential to maintaining normal brain function and immune responses,” Ms Williams said.
“Once a disease has been transmitted it spreads through the entire population.”
Don’t monkey around – support our universities by signing the petition to #KeepItClever now.