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Humans May Be Aiding Spread of Disease in Apes

An African Chimpanzee.
An African Chimpanzee.

The great apes of Africa have long been threatened by hunters, loggers and farmers. But scientists who study great apes say another threat has been rising fast: infectious diseases carried or spread by humans and livestock living near the apes.

In recent years, gorillas, chimps and orangutans have been killed by human-borne diseases like measles, polio and tuberculosis. The latest victims may be chimpanzees living in Ivory Coast's Tai National Park. Six died of anthrax poisoning, and the spores may have been introduced by anthrax-harboring livestock, says a study in the journal Nature. NPR's John Nielsen reports.

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John Nielsen covers environmental issues for NPR. His reports air regularly on NPR's award-winning news magazines, All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition. He also prepares documentaries for the NPR/National Geographic Radio Expeditions series, which is heard regularly on Morning Edition. Nielsen also occasionally serves as the substitute host for several NPR News programs.