Humans May Be Aiding Spread of Disease in Apes

An African Chimpanzee.

An African Chimpanzee. hide caption

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An African Chimp.

As humans move closer to great ape habitat, the animals are increasingly susceptible to diseases such as polio, tuberculosis and measles. Corbis hide caption

itoggle caption Corbis
Ivory Coast's Tai National Park

Yellow circles mark chimp habitat in Ivory Coast. Tai National Park is located left, at the far bottom. Researchers are trying to get to the bottom of an anthrax outbreak among chimps there. UNEP hide caption

itoggle caption UNEP

The great apes of Africa have long been threatened by hunters, loggers and farmers. But scientists who study great apes say another threat has been rising fast: infectious diseases carried or spread by humans and livestock living near the apes.

In recent years, gorillas, chimps and orangutans have been killed by human-borne diseases like measles, polio and tuberculosis. The latest victims may be chimpanzees living in Ivory Coast's Tai National Park. Six died of anthrax poisoning, and the spores may have been introduced by anthrax-harboring livestock, says a study in the journal Nature. NPR's John Nielsen reports.

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