Self-reported medical history survey of humans as a measure of health risk to the chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) of Kibale National Park, Uganda

Hayley Rebecca Adams, Jonathan M. Sleeman, Innocent Rwego, John C. New

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Kibale National Park (KNP), Uganda, has a number of chimpanzees habituated for tourism. The close genetic relationship between humans and chimpanzees means that there is the potential for disease transmission between the two. The aim of this study was to establish the diseases to which chimpanzees may be exposed by surveying the medical histories of humans in contact with the chimpanzees of KNP. Medical questionnaires were given to tourists visiting KNP and to the population of a village close to the park. The 62 tourist surveys returned indicated a high prevalence of disease symptoms, in particular diarrhoea, as well as ongoing infectious diseases and a lack of current vaccinations. The 50 local surveys returned also indicated a high prevalence of disease symptoms, in particular respiratory disease, along with a low rate of vaccination and a high frequency of visual contact with the chimpanzees both within and outside KNP. This study indicates that humans are a potential source of infection for chimpanzees. The results, which have been communicated to the appropriate authorities, will assist in the devising of proper tourist viewing regulations and provide local health authorities with the information necessary to improve both public health and chimpanzee health. Further recommendations include education of tourists regarding appropriate vaccinations, hand washing prior to the visit, the use of facemasks during the visit, and the provision of latrines. Chimpanzee ecotourism is becoming increasingly popular and protecting the chimpanzees' health will help to ensure that ecotourism is a sustainable activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)308-312
Number of pages5
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Science and Technology, for the permission to conduct this study. Valuable assistance was provided by the Kabarole District Chairperson, Mr A.B. Kayonga; Chief Wardens of Kibale National Park, Mr Keith Musana (1998), and Mr Michael Edegu (1999); the warden of Tourism at KNP, Mr Aggrey Rwetsiba; the UWA Veterinary Officer, Dr Gladys Kalema; and Debby Cox of the Jane Goodall Institute. Special thanks to Mr John Bandashi, and to Julia Lloyd and Daniela Pezzato of The Kibale Primate Habituation Project for assistance with the administration of the surveys, and to Dr Antoine Mudakikwa and Dr Juergen Schumacher for translation of the questionnaire and consent form. This project was funded by the Center for Conservation Medicine, Tufts University and a Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation's Frontiers for Veterinary Medicine grant.

Funding Information:
Medical histories for selected diseases and conditions were obtained from tourists visiting the Kanyanchu Visitor Centre at KNP (0°13'-0°41'N, 30°9'-30°32'E) between July 1998 and November 1999, and from a cross-section of the local population at Bigodi, a village bordering KNP in July 1999. Informed consent was established prior to the survey and confidentiality was maintained. Permission to conduct this research was granted by the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) and the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).


  • Chimpanzees
  • Ecotourism
  • Human diseases
  • Kibale National Park
  • Pan trogtodytes schweinfurthii
  • Uganda


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