Do habituation, host traits and seasonality have an impact on protist and helminth infections of wild western lowland gorillas?
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Increased anthropogenic activity can result in parasite exchanges and/or general changes in parasite communities, imposing a health risk to great apes. We studied protist and helminth parasites of wild western lowland gorilla groups in different levels of habituation, alongside humans inhabiting Dzanga-Sangha Protected Areas in the Central African Republic. Faeces were collected yearly during November and December from 2007 to 2010 and monthly from November 2010 to October 2011. Protist and helminth infections were compared among gorilla groups habituated, under habituation and unhabituated, and the effect of host traits and seasonality was evaluated. Zoonotic potential of parasites found in humans was assessed. No significant differences in clinically important parasites among the groups in different stages of habituation were found, except for Entamoeba spp. However, humans were infected with four taxa which may overlap with taxa found in gorillas. Females were less infected with spirurids, and adults had higher intensities of infection of Mammomonogamus sp. We found seasonal differences in the prevalence of several parasite taxa, but most importantly, the intensity of infection of unidentified strongylids was higher in the dry season. This study highlights that habituation may not necessarily pose a greater risk of protist and helminth infections in gorilla groups.
KeywordsWestern lowland gorilla Parasite Habituation Human impact
This publication is an outcome of the HPI-lab (Laboratory for Infectious Diseases Common to Human and Non-Human Primates) co-financed from the European Social Fund and state budget of the Czech Republic (project OPVK CZ.1.07/2.3.00/20.0300). We thank the following granting agencies for their generous support of this research: Czech Science Foundation (15-05180S), Internal Grant Agency of University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences Brno (138/2015/FVL), institutional support of Institute of Vertebrate Biology, Czech Academy of Sciences (RVO:68081766), and the project ‘CEITEC-Central European Institute of Technology’ (CZ.1.05/1.100/02.0068) from the European Regional Development Fund. We would like to thank the government of the Central African Republic and the World Wildlife Fund for granting permission to conduct our research in the Central African Republic; the Ministre de l’Education Nationale, de l’Alphabetisation, de l’Enseignement Superieur, et de la Recherche for providing research permits; and the Primate Habituation Programme for providing logistical support in the field. We would like to express our gratitude to all of the trackers and assistants.
Compliance with ethical standards
Human sample collection was approved by an ethics committee (Anthropology Department Research Ethics and Data Protection Committee, University of Durham, UK), and prior informed consent was obtained from all volunteers.
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