Chimpanzee sanctuaries are restricting human interactions with chimps to prevent passing a human coronavirus infection to the animals.
Rana Smith, the president of Chimp Haven, the national chimpanzee sanctuary in Keithville, La., which houses more than 300 retired chimps, said: “We simply don’t know if chimpanzees can contract the disease, but we are assuming they can since they are vulnerable to other respiratory diseases such as influenza.” There is also evidence from Chinese studies that some monkeys can contract the virus.
As have other organizations where humans are the concern, Chimp Haven has suspended staff meetings, parties, board meetings and other activities for 30 days. But they have also stopped public visits, and routine interactions among chimps and humans. That includes “physical examinations, social introductions and most training sessions for 30 days, and we’ve dialed up our protocols for disinfecting work spaces, boots, uniforms, etc.,” Ms. Smith said. A transfer of chimps to the sanctuary for March has been postponed.
Other sanctuaries are taking similar actions. Erika Fleury, program director at the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance, said the sanctuaries in her organization, which all set their own policies, are “increasing precautions in order to not only protect the primates in their care, but also all the humans working at the organization.” The sanctuaries have more than 430 chimpanzees in all.
They have canceled public events and tours for the near future, and are cutting down on all human interaction with chimpanzees.