For conservation purposes and because of growing ecotourism, some mountain gorilla (Gorilla gorilla beringei) populations have been habituated to humans. Fecal specimens (n = 100) of nonhabituated and human-habituated gorillas (5 populations; 6 age classes) were tested for Cryptosporidium sp. oocysts and Giardia sp. cysts by conventional staining and immunofluorescent antibody (IFA). Cryptosporidium sp. infections (prevalence 11%) were not restricted to very young gorillas but were observed in 3-yr-old to >12-yr-old gorillas; most of the infections (73%) occurred in human-habituated gorillas. The prevalence of Giardia sp. infections was 2%; 1 nonhabituated gorilla was concomitantly infected. Oocysts of Cryptosporidium sp. in the gorilla stools were morphologically, morphometrically, and immunologically undistinguishable from a bovine isolate of Cryptosporidium parvum oocysts. Mean concentration of Cryptosporidium sp. oocysts and Giardia sp. cysts in gorilla stools was 9.39 X 104/g, and 2.49 X 104/g, respectively. There was no apparent relationship between oocyst concentration and gorilla age, sex, or habituation status. Most Cryptosporidium sp. infections found in gorillas with closest proximity to people may be a result of the habituation process and ecotourism. This study constitutes the first report of Cryptosporidium sp. infections in the family Pongidae, in the free-ranging great apes, and in the species of gorilla.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics