Fighting Intestinal Parasites Protects Gorillas

Intestinal parasites are a major health problem for both humans and gorillas. Infection with parasites can lead to malnutrition, resulting in fatigue, inability to fight illness, and decreased productivity in human populations.

Gorillas are also susceptible to human parasites, which can seriously affect their survival. When people infected with intestinal parasites enter the forest where there are no latrines, they can leave behind parasites which can get in the soil and be picked up by gorillas. When parasite infections are treated in humans, levels of parasite infection found among the gorillas drops as well.

How we prevent and treat intestinal parasites

We design intestinal parasite testing, treatment and education action plans with Ministry of Health supervisors and collaborate with local public officials in villages near the gorilla habitats. We then work with townspeople directly.

Staff collect fecal samples to test for parasite infection among volunteers in local communities. These samples are then analyzed by lab assistants. The Fossey Fund’s lab technicians also travel to rural villages and train local technicians to do the analyses themselves. This builds capacity so that our host countries can continue the work independently.

After the samples are analyzed we return to the villages and invite townspeople to join our treatment and education program. We explain the results of the parasite tests to the local people and provide de-worming treatments to those who tested positive for intestinal parasites, in conjunction with the Ministries of Health. We also go to schools with the National Health Ministries to provide treatment for children.

We provide medicines to those who are infected with parasites

Results of our intestinal parasite program

In the first few years of our intestinal parasite prevention program, infections declined 50 percent in the areas served, even before clean water systems were installed.

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