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Ebola and apes 2 - Co n s e r va t i o n B i o l o g y Can...

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www.sciencemag.org SCIENCE VOL 300 13 JUNE 2003 1645 CREDITS: (LEFT TO RIGHT) D. DEMELLO/WILDLIFE CONSERVATION SOCIETY; MAP SOURCE: WILDLIFE CONSERVATION SOCIETY Ongoing Ebola outbreaks in central Africa are taking a gruesome toll on both humans and great apes. Conservationists, primatolo- gists, and disease experts agree on that much, but in an increasingly heated debate, they are arguing over whether they can or should do anything to limit the spread of the disease. The outbreaks, which have so far killed more than 150 people and thousands of apes, are spreading ominously toward Congo’s Odzala National Park, which shelters one of the world’s largest populations of gorillas and chimpanzees. Some researchers argue that drastic measures should be taken to protect the region’s great apes. Proposals include transporting hundreds of apes to safe areas and clearing rivers of debris to divide infect- ed from uninfected populations. Anything that slows the current outbreak would be worthwhile, says ecologist Peter Walsh of Princeton University. “We need to knock this thing down right now and give ourselves time for developing things like vac- cines” that could confer longer lasting protection, he argues. But others say such plans are logistical nightmares that might have little or no effect on the spread of the virus. “We may just be stuck at the scene of an accident and there’s noth- ing we can do but watch,” says Les Real, a disease ecologist at Emory University in Atlanta.
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