Congo’s Virunga National Park, home to about 30 percent of the world’s mountain gorillas has closed its gates to the public until June 1, 2020 as conservationists have warned of the COVID-19 risk to another group of primates, other than humans, Africa’s endangered mountain gorillas.
Across the border, Rwanda has also suspended visitor and research activities in the three national parks that are home to gorillas and chimpanzees. Conservationists have welcomed the move by Congo and Rwanda.
“We know that gorillas are very sensitive to human diseases. If anyone has a cold or a flu they are not allowed to go and see the gorillas,” said Paula Kahumbu, leader of the Kenya-based conservation group WildlifeDirect.
Kahumbu added that every possible effort had to be made to protect mountain gorillas because so few are left in the wild.
According to the Worldwide Fund for Nature, populations of gorillas that are in frequent contact with humans are particularly vulnerable to deadly respiratory infections.
Meanwhile, Uganda has not announced a shutdown of gorilla park tourism even though the numbers of visitors to the parks have severely declined.