1Wildlife Conservation Society, Wildlife Health Program, Bronx, NY, USA; 2Institute for Conservation Medicine, St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis, MO, USA; 3EcoHealth Alliance, New York, NY, USA
In 1999, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Field Veterinary Program developed the Gorilla Preventive Health Program to establish a multi-disciplined health monitoring system for free-ranging western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). The overall objective was to establish preventive health care activities, and standardized and comparable health monitoring systems, for these critically endangered apes by partnering with existing projects in several central African countries. Through this grassroots approach, WCS veterinarians worked with local project managers and wildlife researchers to provide health care advice and services, and training in health monitoring techniques to protect the health of the gorillas in their regions. Primary focus was on health visual data collection, fecal parasite screening1 and the creation of preventive medicine guidelines for protected area personnel and researchers. One aim of the program was to improve human health and livelihoods as a way to protect wildlife health by preventing anthropozoonotic disease transmission; a novel approach at the time, but one later recognized as the "One World - One Health™" concept. In 2003, catastrophic Ebola Virus Disease outbreaks in apes and humans shifted much of the program’s focus towards Ebola virus research and surveillance.2 We describe the inception and evolution of the “Great Ape Health Program” reflecting on accomplishments, challenges and lessons learned.
1. Freeman, A.S., J.M. Kinsella, C. Cipolletta, S.L. Deem, and W.B. Karesh. 2004. Endoparasites of western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) at Bai Hokou, Central African Republic. J. Wildl. Dis. 40:774–780.
2. Karesh, W., and P. Reed. 2005. Ebola and great apes in Central Africa: current status and future needs. Le Bulletin de la Société de Pathologie Exotique. 98:237–238.