|The Great Ape Health Monitoring Unit is (GAHMU) is a network
of researchers from different disciplines concerned about diseases
of great apes.
Even though diseases among wild living great apes under human
observation have been observed by many field workers, detailed
information and descriptions of first-hand experiences are rarely
published or distributed thinly among journals with widely disparate
academic audiences. For far too long, the focus of great ape
behaviour researchers, ecologists and conservationists has been
separated from the one followed by scientists working in the
field of great ape medical sciences. Today, due partly to severe
health problems in great apes populations in the wild (Ebola,
measles, polio and unexplained cases of death), more scientists
are calling for a connection between these fields.
A major limitation to progress is the insufficient knowledge
about infectious diseases and transmission of pathogens in wild
great apes. An interdisciplinary approach could help to expand
the knowledge base for protecting the health of great ape populations,
with recent Ebola and other outbreaks among great ape populations
demonstrating that diseases must also be considered a major threat,
it should provide information about risks of emerging infectious
diseases to humans and could also help in the understanding of
disease evolution and its impact on primate evolution.
GAHMU will aid in this progress by providing drafts for health
care plans, outbreak protocols, and by promoting the development
and use of new, non-invasive methods of monitoring the health
of wild great apes, and in cases of death, effective methods
to identify the causative pathogens.
We are currently engaged in two concrete projects:
a) Creating a “Great Ape Task Force”, an emergency
group of experienced veterinarians to support field sites when
great apes are showing sever symptoms or cases of deaths are
observed. (click to read more)
b) Obtaining data on pathogens of different great ape populations.
Different laboratories will screen non-invasive samples for a
set of pathogens. This study involves a number of great ape field-sites,
and additional data will be obtained there to analyze the effect
of parameters like climate, inter-species contact or environmental
disruption on disease transmission. (click
to read more)