Gorilla: chewed plants help to understand the state of health


new discovery as simple as it is revolutionary concerns monkeys and their state of health. University of California scholars have discovered that gorillas can be studied through the chewed bark and discarded leaves of these specimens. The method is precisely described in a study recently published in the American Journal of Primatology , in which the results were published after testing the effectiveness of the new technique.


The scientific community is proud to have discovered a simple and above all non-invasive alternative to discover and prevent epidemics in primates. Moreover, this particular modality can also be applied to other populations belonging to wildlife , thus allowing the monitoring of the health of different species. 

The Gorilla Study

The experiment was conducted by One Health Institute , which also includes scientist Tierra Smiley Adams , who after the extraordinary discovery said she was proud to have found a non-invasive technique for animals that can save their lives.

The strength of this experiment is its simplicity. As UC students say, “ Keep It Simple! ”, i.e. keep it simple. And it is precisely in this way that thousands of mountain gorillas can be saved, which today are at risk of extinction in many parts of the world such as Congo , Uganda and Rwanda . The problem, for these specimens, is that they have found themselves in close contact with humans and consequently with their pathogens. About 60% of them are used to being close to our species, risking infectious diseaseswhich constantly threaten the survival of monkeys in the wild.


Although researchers and environmentalists continuously take blood samples and oral swabs in animals, it is still an invasive technique for which it is mandatory to anesthetize the specimens first so that the tests can be performed. As for mountain gorillas , anesthesia is given if the latter is sick or injured , but never when healthy.


This species is in fact very delicate and that is why the discovery of researchers at the University of California represents a real revolution for the hope of their survival.

Mountain gorilla viruses

In this seemingly simple study with a complex background, as many as 383 mountain gorillas and 18 golden monkeys were analyzed , along with some plant samples chewed up and food remains. Thanks to the DNA present on the foliage, it is in fact possible to detect even RNA viruses , which are usually the most difficult to sample.


This totally non-invasive method can also be used together with other tests such as, for example, that of urine and feces in order to better understand the behavior of viruses. Protecting the mountain gorilla species is essential, since today there are just over a thousand individuals left and their contact with man is a constant danger that is leading them to live higher and higher in the mountains, where temperatures are incredibly unwelcoming. This is because gorillas travel to escape humans who come close to their natural habitat .

A new approach

The purpose of the study is to conduct a so-called ” one health ” research, i.e. with an approach aimed at the conservation of wild animals. Gorilla Doctors together with the Devis One Health Institute project conducted this global research to understand which viruses move between people and then attack wildlife as well.

Given the difficult experience of the Coronavirus pandemic , the leap of species is at the center of new scientific research. For this reason Gorilla Doctors, together with the Devis One institute , has declared that new non-invasive techniques are needed to sample primates in order to have a complete picture of which pathogens are potentially affecting the human species.


Study the chewed leaves

Here, therefore, that the veterinarians equipped with plastic bags and gloves, have collected a series of food remains such as vegetables and leaves to then go to the analysis laboratory and study through some passages if the specimens are affected by dangerous viruses for themselves and consequently for humans. A sad example was in fact the one that occurred in 2011, the year in which numerous mountain gorillas were affected by the so-called Metapneumovirus , which causes minor symptoms such as fever, labored breathing and cough in humans, while it can also lead to death in animals.

Thanks to the research, we can hope for a better conservation of the species , avoiding poaching and allowing the gorillas not to be exposed to deadly diseases. Veterinary medicine fights damages so that even in natural parks there are policies aimed at preserving any non-human guest, such as the obligation to keep a certain distance from animals.

  • Chewed plants: the non-invasive procedure to know the health status of gorillas (


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