Optimizing syndromic health surveillance in free ranging great apes: The case of Gombe National Park

Tiffany M. Wolf, Wenchun “Annie” Wang, Elizabeth V. Lonsdorf, Thomas R. Gillespie, Anne Pusey, Ian C. Gilby, Dominic A. Travis, Randall S. Singer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Syndromic surveillance is an incipient approach to early wildlife disease detection. Consequently, systematic assessments are needed for methodology validation in wildlife populations. We evaluated the sensitivity of a syndromic surveillance protocol for respiratory disease detection among chimpanzees in Gombe National Park, Tanzania. Empirical health, behavioural, and demographic data were integrated with an agent-based, network model to simulate disease transmission and surveillance. Surveillance sensitivity was estimated as 66% (95% CI: 63.1, 68.8%) and 59.5% (95% CI: 56.5%, 62.4%) for two monitoring methods (weekly count and prevalence thresholds respectively), but differences among calendar quarters in outbreak size and surveillance sensitivity suggest seasonal effects. We determined that a weekly detection threshold of ≥2 chimpanzees with clinical respiratory disease leading to outbreak response protocols (enhanced observation and biological sampling) is an optimal algorithm for outbreak detection in this population. Synthesis and applications. This is the first quantitative assessment of syndromic surveillance in wildlife, providing a model approach to detecting disease emergence. Coupling syndromic surveillance with targeted diagnostic sampling in the midst of suspected outbreaks will provide a powerful system for detecting disease transmission and understanding population impacts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)509-518
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Applied Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Lincoln Park Zoo; Arcus Foundation; National Institutes of Health, Grant/Award Number: R01 AI058715, R01 AI120810, R00 HD057992 and R00 HD05; National Science Foundation, Grant/Award Number: LTREB-1052693; University of Minnesota Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship; Leo S. Guthman Foundation; University of Minnesota Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment, and the Life Sciences; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Great Ape Conservation Fund; Morris Animal Foundation, Grant/Award Number: D10ZO-902

Funding Information:
Many thanks to Jane Goodall and the Jane Goodall Institute for supporting long-term chimpanzee research at Gombe National Park, the Gombe Stream Research Center staff collecting daily behavioural and health observations, and the remainder of the Gombe Ecosystem Health Project investigators (Carson Murray, Karen Terio, Beatrice Hahn) whose combined efforts ensure on-going maintenance of syndromic surveillance in the park. We are grateful to the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology, Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, and Tanzania National Parks Association for their continued support and approval of this research. Funding support for collection and analysis of syndromic surveillance data comes from the National Institute of Health (R01 AI058715, R01 AI120810, and R00 HD057992), National Science Foundation (LTREB-1052693), Arcus Foundation, USFWS Great Ape Conservation Fund, Morris Animal Foundation (D10ZO-902), University of Minnesota Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment, and the Life Sciences, University of Minnesota Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship and Lincoln Park Zoo. Collection, digitization, and analysis of behavioural data were supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (R00 HD057992) and the Leo S. Guthman Foundation.


  • agent-based modelling
  • apes
  • disease ecology
  • disease transmission
  • network model
  • respiratory disease
  • syndromic surveillance
  • wildlife surveillance

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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