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News Article | April 17, 2017
Site: www.newscientist.com

A new oral Ebola vaccine seems to works in apes – but that doesn’t mean Africa’s great apes are now safe from the virus, which poses a grave threat to endangered gorillas, bonobos and chimpanzees. It may, however, never be used, unless researchers, conservationists and officials can agree on vaccination strategies and how to test the vaccines. Researchers had started testing the vaccines and wanted to carry on, but a change to the US Endangered Species Act prohibiting invasive research on chimps kicked in in September 2015, while they were still in the process. Wild animals become more vulnerable to the impacts of disease as their populations get smaller and more fragmented. “As great apes continue to suffer habitat loss and poaching, infectious disease is increasingly likely to tip that last domino toward extinction,” says Steve Osofsky at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Ebola is endemic to the animals’ natural range in Africa, and outbreaks have killed possibly a third of gorillas and thousands of chimpanzees since 1990. Apes can also die from purely human diseases. “Risk is increasing with more human contact, and we fear bigger outbreaks,” says Chris Whittier at Tufts University in Massachusetts. Peter Walsh at the University of Cambridge tested an oral vaccine for Ebola in 10 captive chimps at an animal facility in Louisiana. It was made of the live, weakened rabies virus used in oral vaccines for animals, with an added gene for the main surface glycoprotein from the Ebola virus. After this, levels of antibodies effective against the rabies and Ebola viruses rapidly increased in the chimps. By four weeks, they had the same levels that monkeys produced in earlier tests with the same vaccine. The monkeys had developed even higher levels of antibodies after eight weeks, which protected them from deliberate exposure to Ebola. The chimps’ antibody levels were rising just as fast, and Walsh thinks they would have developed similar, protective levels. But he couldn’t take the blood samples at eight weeks to find out because the change to US law prohibiting invasive research on apes kicked in before then. The law does allow research that benefits chimps for those that apply for an exemption. But after widespread campaigns against any chimp research, no US animal colonies applied for this, says Walsh. Although he wants to continue testing, there are now no countries that allow invasive tests such as blood samples in captive chimps. Zoos that have apes want no association with testing or Ebola. Using rescued chimps in sanctuaries might be an option, but in December the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance banned vaccines with live, replicating viruses. “We don’t want to risk even the slightest chance of a replicating vaccine virus mutating and become virulent,” says PASA director Gregg Tully. Matthias Schnell at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who developed Walsh’s vaccine, argues that the virus is so weak that it doesn’t cause rabies even when injected into mouse brains, and the Ebola gene weakens it further. Hundreds of millions of doses of the virus have been scattered in oral baits for foxes and raccoons across Europe and North America. A live-virus Ebola vaccine is needed, says Walsh, because it can be eaten, and the tiny dose absorbed then replicates to elicit immunity. Some wild animals can be darted with injected, killed-virus vaccines, he says, but apes live in dense forests and flee humans. Walsh envisages a dispenser from which apes could get sweet vaccine-laced treats, with a camera recording those that took some. The effectiveness of the vaccine could then be tested by measuring antibodies in the apes’ excretions. Nevertheless, wildlife disease experts warn that no such work should be carried out until virologists, conservationists and governments have discussed the risks and benefits and agreed a plan. “You need stakeholder buy-in,” says Osofsky. “If someone vaccinated apes now without broad consensus and there was some problem, even unrelated to the vaccine, it could doom any future effort.” He cites the emergency rabies vaccination of endangered African wild dogs in Tanzania in the 1980s. Months later, an unknown disease wiped them out and the vaccination was blamed, even though it was unrelated. The controversy delayed and even derailed efforts to vaccinate wildlife in the region for years.


Faust L.J.,Alexander Center for Applied Population Biology | Cress D.,Pan African Sanctuary Alliance | Farmer K.H.,Pan African Sanctuary Alliance | Farmer K.H.,University of Stirling | And 2 more authors.
International Journal of Primatology | Year: 2011

Wildlife sanctuaries rescue, rehabilitate, reintroduce, and provide life-long care for orphaned and injured animals. Understanding a sanctuary's patterns in arrival, mortality, and projected changes in population size can help managers plan carefully for future needs, as well as illuminate patterns in source populations of wildlife. We studied these dynamics for chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) in 11 sanctuaries of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA). We analyzed historic demographic patterns and projected future population dynamics using an individual-based demographic model. From 2000 to 2006, the population in these sanctuaries has been growing at a rate of 15% per year. This growth is driven by arrivals of new individuals, with an average of 56 arrivals per year. The median age of the 760 chimpanzees living in these sanctuaries as of 2007 was 9 yr, with 76% of the population <15 yr. We found no significant difference in survivorship to age 20 between these chimpanzees and those maintained in North American accredited zoos. The size of the population in 20 yr is projected to be between 550 and 1800, depending on different assumptions about arrival and reintroduction rates. Projected shifts in age structure, including increases in the proportions of adolescent (9-19 yr of age) and older (35+) chimpanzees, may necessitate adjustments to management, veterinary care, and housing. This research illustrates how data on historic population dynamics can be modeled to inform future sanctuary capacity and management needs, allowing sanctuaries to plan better for their populations' long-term care. © 2011 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.


Ferrie G.M.,Disneys Animal Kingdom | Farmer K.H.,Pan African Sanctuary Alliance | Farmer K.H.,University of Stirling | Kuhar C.W.,Cleveland Metroparks Zoo | And 3 more authors.
Biodiversity and Conservation | Year: 2014

Over the last few decades, primate sanctuaries have become more numerous, particularly in Africa. Sanctuaries play an obvious and vital role in the battle against the illegal trade in wildlife and provide opportunities for local people to learn about the importance of protecting habitat and laws governing wildlife trade. Given the multi-disciplinary role of sanctuaries, the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance provides mechanisms to exchange best practices and establishes links to other conservation partners. In April 2011, the managers of the 22 Pan African Sanctuary Alliance members were surveyed in order to collect detailed information on the conservation activities of each sanctuary. The majority of the 22 sanctuaries conducted both on- and off-site education activities, engaging more than 429,000 people in education activities per year. Sanctuaries reported that they provided employment for over 550 local community members across Africa, as well as resources for community education and infrastructure, with an economic impact over $3 million per year. Sanctuaries were also involved in activities that promote law enforcement and believed that the activities they supported have led to better protection of primate habitats. The results of the survey demonstrate that sanctuaries have moved towards supporting and implementing community development activities aimed at poverty reduction, while conducting conservation activities. While Pan African Sanctuary Alliance sanctuaries were initially established to provide care and housing for orphaned, confiscated and displaced primates, this paper demonstrates how sanctuaries have combined ex-situ with in-situ initiatives to support social, economic, and environmental progress in primate range countries in Africa. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


Cartwright B.J.,Pan African Sanctuary Alliance | Cartwright B.J.,Royal Roads University | Wall J.E.,Carleton University | Placide Kaya J.A.,Center des Recherches Forestieres du Littoral
Journal of Environmental Education | Year: 2012

Among species recovery tools available, re-introduction of animals to the wild is one of the more complex. Since the mid-1990s two successful great ape re-introductions have taken place in the Republic of Congo, leading some conservationists to revisit re-introduction as a strategy. This research explored the role of conservation education and environmental communication in the projects, including activities undertaken, stakeholder perceptions of success and impacts on project outcomes. The research found that education and communication activities, while varied and broad, were managed in an ad hoc, intuitive manner, lacking priority, expertise, and funding leading to recommendations for future reintroduction projects. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.


Kuhar C.W.,Disneys Animal Kingdom | Bettinger T.L.,Disneys Animal Kingdom | Lehnhardt K.,Disneys Animal Kingdom | Cartwright B.,Pan African Sanctuary Alliance | Cress D.,Pan African Sanctuary Alliance
International Journal of Primatology | Year: 2012

The past decade has witnessed a shift in the role of primate sanctuaries in Africa from warehouses of salvaged animals to proactive conservation organizations. As part of this new role, the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA) has conducted annual training workshops for educators from member sanctuaries. These workshops have included content on program development, interpretive techniques, and evaluation techniques. Here we use meta-analytic techniques to examine data from the resulting education evaluation programs for trends in knowledge acquisition across PASA sanctuaries. Question content strongly impacted the evaluation results of the conservation education program. In addition, effect size and final performance scores were independent of one another and provide different perspectives as to the effectiveness of a conservation education program. These results highlight the importance of using both final performance scores and effect size measures in conservation education program evaluation. They also underscore the importance of evaluating knowledge transfer as part of the larger picture of evaluating pro-environmental behavior change and conservation impact. © 2011 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.

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