The coronavirus has the potential to wipe out populations of gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans and bonobos if humans don’t take steps to prevent its spread, experts are warning. In a letter published Wednesday in the journal Nature, 25 disease researchers, conservationists and other experts from the Great Ape Health Consortium warned that the virus could be even more lethal to endangered great apes, our closest-living relatives, than it is to humans.  The letter urged governments, conservation practitioners, researchers, tourism professionals and funding agencies to suspend wildlife tourism and reduce field research within reason — given that a lack of humans in certain regions could lead to an uptick in poaching. It’s well documented that coronavirus is capable of being transmitted across species — it likely originated in bats before potentially being transferred to pangolins and eventually to humans. But no great ape is yet known to have contracted COVID-19.  The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) lists “susceptibility to disease” as one of the main threats to great apes, in addition to habitat loss and poaching. Human respiratory illnesses — even extremely mild ones like the common cold — have proved fatal to gorillas in the past, according to the WWF.  Fear on the rise as coronavirus deaths


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