Posts Tagged ‘endangered species’

Chimpanzees catch human viruses

June 21, 2008

Researchers in Tanzania have confirmed that chimpanzees are catching human viruses. Virginia Tech’s Dr. Taranjit Kaur and researchers from the US Center of Disease Control and from Japan are working together to determine how harmful the human viruses are to chimps, and to figure out how the viruses are transmitted to them.

The researchers increasingly suspect that human scientists and eco-tourists are the source of the respiratory viruses found in chimpanzees. If this suspicion is borne out in research, it could be disastrous for those African countries whose economies depend increasingly on eco-tourism. This would also be very bad news for the chimps, as their protection also depends on the income from eco-tourism.

Chimpanzees are our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. They share some 96% of our genome, many of our facial expressions, and transmission of culture from one generation to the next. Sadly, it looks as though their very kindred with us is threatening to undo them.


It’s worse than I thought

April 30, 2008

As promised, here’s a post on Orangutan Outreach, which director Richard Zimmerman pointed out to me in a comment to an earlier post.

The primary purpose of Orangutan Outreach is to preserve orangutans in their native habitat, and to rehabilitate orangutans held captive illegally. There’s more to it than that, of course, but that is why I refer the reader to their website.

If I’ve read correctly, the main threat to orangutan survival is posed by palm oil production. Palm oil is an ingredient of dozens of household products, as well as the basis for certain biofuels. The production of palm oil has lead to deforestation on a breathtaking scale in many countries, the displacement of millions of people, and the threat of extinction of orangutans, probably among others. The Orangutan Outreach page has information on what everyone can do to reduce this threat.

The page has a staggering wealth of information, pretty much all of which on topics I had never heard of. As I read over it, I began to reflect that, in this day and age, there is no excuse for this kind of ignorance. The continued existence of humanity is under threat from dozens of directions. All these issues can be remedied if action is taken, and all stem in some way from human activity. Further, information on all of these problems is freely available online.

I can easily think of one reason why ignorance of these issues persists. Reading about a small subset of these issues, for instance, has filled me with paralyzing fear. What can one person do in the face of all this? The answer is simple: one can do what one is capable of doing. If we all did that much, ensuring a bright future for humanity would be simple.

That’s enough confused babbling for today. Everybody head on over to Orangutan Outreach right now!