News

Doli Lodge under new management

From the 1st November 2010, management of Doli Lodge will be taken over by the tour operator Bushtracks. This company is one of Dzanga-Sangha’s longest serving operators, and has a wealth of experience in the area. For information on pricing, package deals (including accommodation, meals, activities, and internal flights), and reservations please contact their team at info@dolilodge.com or reservations@dolilodge.com, their website is www.dolilodge.com (Tel: +1 888 518 4083 or +1 707 433 4083).
For general enquiries on Dzanga-Sangha tourist activities, activity reservations, and alternative accommodation, you are welcome to contact us directly at info@dzanga-sangha.org.

Dzanga-Sangha habituated gorillas shed light on the evolutionary origins of malaria

Reported in this week’s top scientific journals, Nature and Science, Dzanga-Sangha habituated gorillas have made an important contribution to our knowledge on one of the most lethal diseases infecting humans today, malaria. Five strains of malaria are known to infect humans, all caused by the Plasmodium genus of blood parasites, transmitted by mosquitoes. The strain of most concern, Plasmodium falciparum, is responsible for several hundred million cases of clinical malaria and more than one million deaths per year. Recent genetic research on Plasmodium species found in faecal samples from wild-living apes in central Africa has discovered malaria infection in chimpanzees and western lowland gorillas, but not in bonobos or eastern lowland or mountain gorillas. Moreover further DNA analysis revealed that one strain from western gorillas was nearly identical to P. falciparum. This surprising discovery indicates that, unlike SIV (the ape ancestor of HIV), Plasmodium falciparum originated in gorillas and not in chimpanzees.

Western lowland gorilla samples from Dzanga-Sangha were collected non-invasively from the Makumba group at the Bai Hokou research camp, set-up and financed by WWF, and one of only two sites where habituated western gorillas can be viewed by tourists. This group is now making an exceptional contribution to our knowledge of emergent diseases, having also been tested for SIV (negative), and several other pathogens. Cross-species transmission of ape diseases to humans is thought to be a rare event, but may be related to ever-increasing encroachment by people into ape habitat, and the consequent hunting and consumption of their meat. Hypotheses suggest that the original malaria cross-species transmission event occurred a long time ago but it is as yet unknown whether additional transmission events have since occurred. Further genetic sequencing alongside screening of humans and apes living in proximity, such as at Dzanga-Sangha, will help resolve these important questions. Whatever the case, it is in the interests of both humans and apes to support WWF and partners to maintain intact habitat for these endangered gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos and to continue the campaign against the commercial trade in bushmeat.

NB Silverback Makumba is also featured in the Science article – a photo taken by our Technical Advisor for Primate Habitation and Ecotourism, Angelique Todd.

Liu et al. (2010) Origin of the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum in gorillas. Nature 467: 420-425.

Cohen, J. (2010) Origin of most deadly human malaria comes out of the mist. Science 329: 1586-1587.