Thursday, April 05, 2007

What is 'Zoonotic'?

Sussy is sixteen years old and MonaLisa is just five. Sussy came to us from Gabriela in Manrique during August 2003 and MonaLisa arrived with her owner in October the same year. You will notice from the two very recent photographs that Sussy’s coat is much lighter than MonaLisa’s. But that is not the only difference, Sussy’s human mother visits her at least once a month, bringing with her loads of Sussy’s favorite nibbles but MonaLisa’s owner, just visited the once, just to get rid of her. Her name on arrival was Mona, the Spanish word for female monkey. How thoughtful, how caring! They are the longest stay monkeys that we have here at Canaote. All the previous inhabitants were gradually released into the wild.
In 2002 we changed our policy. We decided that we would be a shelter rather than a release point. Formerly our monkeys were allowed to roam freely in the forest and when ready would join other local groups in the area. They were fed twice a day by us and slept on the upper floor of our house which is open plan and without windows. Basically, they could come and go as they wished, choosing their own moment for release. Now when walking in the forest we frequently encounter old friends. They are completely integrated into the forest and show no sign of recognition. In 2002 we had some discussion with a number of veterinary authorities. We became aware of the danger both to the monkeys and to humans of the release program. All our children have lived in close proximity to humans, most of them sharing living accommodation with their human owners. They were just like human children around the house. Very few of them were restricted in cages. That was not all they shared. They also were subject to influenza and other diseases that humans contract. Influenza in a monkey can be very serious. It has been substantiated that it can cause brain damage in monkeys. The problems do not end there. Monkeys are able to contract the whole spectrum of bacterial and virus infections. Releasing monkeys into the wild can be disastrous for the wild colonies. They have no resistance to human ailments. There is another little researched aspect to this problem, viruses can modify and return to attack the human community through pets captured in the wild. These are known as retrovirus and are part of the zoonotic cross species viral problem. Mad cow disease, AIDs and Chicken Flu are all examples of this danger.
We give our residents the closest to a natural life as we can. All their enclosures are large and contain several fully grown trees. We provide fresh leaves from the forest frequently. Their sleeping and eating areas are kept clean and insect free. We have staff who have no other duties and have that most important quality, LOVE.

For those who would like to know more about Zoonotic diseases, I have found a most informative tutorial and very comprehensive.

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