Human activity can pose a dangerous threat to global wildlife. Whether it is through urbanization, deforestation, or simply direct contact, human temperament with wildlife most often results in mass destruction along with the spread of disease. The mountain gorilla found in central Africa is currently endangered with 880 currently remaining in the Virunga Conservation Range contained within Rwanda and Uganda. For these gorillas, ecotourism has presented the unfortunate case of numerous wildlife zoonotic diseases and has made proper surveillance of endangered population and disease control nearly impossible without invasive procedures until now.
In order to properly monitor and survey endangered populations, oral or blood samples are taken to test for any infecting viruses. In order to attain these samples from primates, anesthesia is used to subdue and collect. This unfortunately is invasive and often leads to more complications with spread of disease and disruption. Recent policy was put in place to restrict taking samples from only gorillas that showed physical manifestations of infection. A new study where researchers follow primates and collect chewed plant samples proves effective in analysis for RNA as well as DNA viruses. Because RNA has a greater ability to be zoonotic, this is the primary concern of the research and has opened up a new avenue on novel noninvasive methods of protecting these endangered gorillas. Scientists are now able to simply test for disease from the saliva secreted from chewed plant leaves of gorillas.
This new technique not only stops humans from interfering and damaging gorilla populations but it also removes the restrictions that only called for testing gorillas with physical manifestations. A large subset of a population can now be tested without disruption and concern for infection. This method can be employed with other techniques such as fecal and urine samples in order to access viral shedding in primates.
Human interference is sometimes necessary in these situations to protect wildlife from disease; however, whether it be from man, parasite, or pathogen, the less we interfere with their normal habits and day to day life, the better suited wildlife populations will be to survive and reproduce in a natural habitat.
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