IS CORONA A DANGER FOR THE ORANG-UTANS?
The orangutans are one of our closest relatives, with about 97 percent of their DNA identical to ours.
As a result, orangutans can also be infected with human pathogens. The corona pandemic could therefore also be a danger for the orangutans.
Safety first, especially in our rescue and rehabilitation station on Sumatra. For this reason, stricter hygiene rules and additional caution are required while working with the orangutans in our station. Our keepers in the rescue and rehabilitation station continue to use face masks, something that has become even more important in recent weeks. People who work with the animals spend five days in isolation before their shifts, and now they also spend the nights in the station. Our local team in Indonesia was also specially instructed on the hygiene rules of the Swiss Health Office BAG. These measures reduce the risk of the orangutans being infected with coronavirus. The precautions should help to reduce the risk of the virus spreading to the orangutans. Even outside the rescue and rehabilitation station, work in the orangutan protection programme has had to adapt to the current circumstances. Many employees of PanEco and our partner organisation YEL are now working in home offices. In the research and reintroduction stations, similar to the rescue and rehabilitation station, increased safety is required. Therefore employee movements are kept to a minimum.
It is still not scientifically clear whether great apes can be infected with the rapidly spreading virus. However, it has to be assumed that the possibility of an infection is high. Orangutans are susceptive to respiratory diseases and are therefore potentially at risk. Staff in our rescue and rehabilitation station are in contact with other organizations which operate stations for great apes. We are exchanging views and information in order to develop procedures that help us to get through this virus crisis as best as possible. We will be happy to report on further measures in a few days.