Scientists fear GORILLAS can catch and die from coronavirus because of their similarity to humans

Conservationists have warned that endangered species including Africa's mountain gorilla are at risk of contracting coronavirus.

The Virunga National Park in Congo, which is currently home to around one third of the world's mountain gorillas, has taken the decision to ban all visitors until June 1.

It cited 'advice from scientific experts indicating that primates, including mountain gorillas, are likely susceptible to complications arising from the COVID-19 virus.'

Primates are prone to many of the same respiratory illnesses that afflict humans.

Even a common cold is enough to kill a gorilla, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature, which is one of the reasons why tourists tracking the animals are not normally permitted to get too close.

And Virunga National Park's decision has been welcomed by conservationists in the region.

Paula Kahumbu, chief executive of the Kenya-based conservation group WildlifeDirect, said that 'every possible effort must be made' to protect mountain gorillas because there are so few left in the wild.

She added: 'We know that gorillas are very sensitive to human diseases.

'If anyone has a cold or a flu they are not allowed to go and see the gorillas.

'With coronavirus having such a long time of no symptoms in some cases, it means that we could actually put those gorillas at risk.'

But existing protective measures may not be enough to protect them.

Ugandan conservationist Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka warned that the rule on keeping a safe distance from gorillas was broken almost every time a group of tourists visited.

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