Can animals suffer from Covid-19? Scientists at the Case Western Reserve University are concerned that if just one Lowland Gorilla in Uganda were to be Covid-19 positive, an event as catastrophic as an extinction of the species is possible. They’re also worried about the Narwhal, the whale with a long tusk. To evaluate susceptibility, they’re undertaking rigorous studies.
They have reason to be worried. In September, research led by Joana Damas of the University of California, Davis, and a team of several others, suggested that it is possible. This was published in the Procceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA. Summarising their own paper, “all old-world primates and great apes” were very highly susceptible. Next on their list were 28 species “classified as having a high propensity.” These included some whales and dolphins, rodents, deer, lemurs, and even the Angola colobus, a type of monkey. This is why the focus on two species.
It is now upto individual countries to further isolate species at risk, even if the data is inadequate to determine their susceptibility. At this point, this could include reducing wildlife tourism, reduce interaction with humans and leave the forest undisturbed. India should be no exception. We enjoy such rich biodiversity, we should be on top gear. Even if we have just preliminary data, let’s learn from the human pandemic that prevention is the only way forward.
(The writer is the founder and Director of the Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group)