July 6, 2005

Respiratory diseases kill mountain gorillas -study

LONDON (Reuters) - Mountain gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda,
an endangered species, are dying from respiratory illnesses,
according to study published Wednesday.

Poaching is the biggest killer of the gorillas but new
research shows that a quarter of 100 gorilla deaths dating back
to 1968 were due to illnesses such as influenza and other

"In a bid to cut the risk of people passing these diseases
on, eco-tourists who trek to see the gorillas in the wild
already have to stay at least 7 meters (yards) away, and keep
their visit to no more than an hour," New Scientist magazine
noted Wednesday.

The Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project in Ruhengeri,
Rwanda, which carried out the research, said 40 deaths were due
to trauma which is usually due to poaching. But respiratory
illnesses came a surprising second.

About 700 mountain gorillas live in two separate groups in
Uganda and Rwanda. Both populations are monitored and

"But their overall numbers are small, and their situation
is still pretty precarious," said Chris Wittier, a member of
the project from North Carolina State University in Raleigh.