Ngamba Island chimpanzees subjected to Covid test

Saturday July 17 2021
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Veterinary doctors carry out chimpanzee health checkups at Ngamba chimpanzee sanctuary recently. PHOTO/COURTESY

By Eve Muganga

All chimpanzees at Ngamba chimpanzee sanctuary have been subjected to a coronavirus test to ascertain whether they didn’t contract the deadly disease from tourists who regularly visit the sanctuary island.

However all results from samples of 52 chimpanzees at the sanctuary were negative.

The testing was carried out as part of activities to mark the July 14 annual World Chimpanzee Day.

The sanctuary manager and veterinarian, Dr Titus Mukungu said: ‘‘We screened them for Covid-19 based on the fact that chimpanzees and humans are so close in terms of DNA which is 98%. Actually, respiratory attractive infections like cough, flu are common in chimpanzees as well. We are happy to report that they were Covid-19 negative.”

Dr Mukungu said they’ve also developed an isolation centre in case any of the animals test positive for the viral disease.

He further noted that they didn’t vaccinate the animals due to vaccine scarcity.

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“Our main focus is on prevention through screening and testing as we wait for the vaccines to be available and they (chimpanzees) will be vaccinated,” he said.

Medical checks to ascertain functionality of the chimpanzees’ body parts and organs were conducted.

‘‘We also take the weight of the chimps to ensure that they don’t become obese. We also glucose levels to rule out any diabetes that may be developed in these animals it,” Dr Mukungu added.

Daily Monitor has learnt that the implants in the female chimpanzees in infant bearing age have been replaced.

‘‘This is done to control their population at the sanctuary because it’s a centre for rescue and rehabilitation of animals from different parts of the country,” he revealed.

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Veterinary doctors examining Sunday(male chimp) at the sanctuary recently. PHOTO/COURTESY

Ngamba Chimpanzee Sanctuary Executive Director, Dr Joshua Rukundo decried the negative impact of the second Covid-19 wave on tourism in Uganda.

‘‘Last year we got some support from government but this year, we haven’t yet the situation is difficult as the sanctuary needs more support,’’ he echoed.

Dr Rukundo also appealed to people to protect the chimpanzees from extinction.

“As we celebrate World Chimpanzee Day, the biggest challenge is the destruction of their habitat. Of course there are still issues to do with bush meat trade though little but still there and all these affect their numbers,” he urged.

 About the implants

The birth control implant is a tiny, thin rod about the size of a matchstick. It’s also called Nexplanon and there’s a slightly older version called Implanon.

A doctor inserts the implant under the skin of the chimpanzee’s upper arm. It then releases the hormone, progestin, to stop the female primates from getting pregnant.

The island

Ngamba Island is 23km southeast of Entebbe on Lake Victoria. The island is part of the archipelago of Koome islands on Lake Victoria in Mukono City and seats on about 95 acres of rain forest. The sanctuary has 52 chimpanzees, 30 female chimps and 22 males , 28 have implants while the two are still young.

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