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Gorilla Thriller

August 21, 1988

Roderick Mann sets a dangerous example with his "rules are made to be broken" attitude ("I had not flown 10,000 miles in search of this extraordinary animal to look away. So I stared right back and hoped he would not charge.") His irresponsible behavior may encourage people to break other important rules like: Never breathe on a gorilla, and never visit when you're sick.

Dr. Dian Fossey was deeply concerned about tourist impact on the critically endangered apes when she invited us to her research center in 1985.

Human encroachment, the biggest threat to the gorilla's survival, is not limited to farmers and poachers. Tourists may pose an even greater health risk. Disease spreads quickly among the social primates, and even a slight cold becomes a serious matter when coupled with rain and the harsh chill of the ape's high-altitude habitat.

Between February and June of this year, six gorillas regularly visited by tourists have died. According to Claude Ramsey, executive director of the Digit Fund, four of the apes had pneumonia and "one laboratory report indicated a likelihood of measles in one deceased animal."

We urge people to act more responsibly than Mann. And before they fly 10,000 miles and spend thousands of dollars, they might ask themselves: "If I catch a cold or a touch of the flu, will I give up my chance to see the gorillas?"

If the answer is no--the gorillas don't stand a chance.

EVELYN GALLARDO and DAVID ROOT

Primate Documentaries

Manhattan Beach

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