Thursday, January 02, 2003

PLEASE DON'T EAT THE CHIMPANZEES

Monkey brains off the menu in central Africa

MEKAMBO, Gabon, January 02 -- Monkey brains and tender elephant trunks were off the Christmas menu in northern Gabon where an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus has deprived people of their traditional fare....

Scientists believe Ebola, which causes 90 percent of its victims to bleed to death, can be caught by eating meat from infected apes such as chimpanzees and gorillas....

The news has reached further afield, however. China has imposed an import ban on apes from Gabon, such as chimpanzees and gorillas, and their products. Passengers from the central African state will be subject to extra scrutiny, the official China Daily said on Saturday.

When Ebola first struck Gabon in 1994, investigators were told many apes had died in a forest near the affected area, but none were found. In 1996, 13 people fell ill after butchering a dead chimpanzee they had found.

Despite such tales and the horrific fate that awaits Ebola victims, bushmeat of all kinds is still getting through to Gabon's big cities, where demand for a taste of the wild has been growing steadily.

During Christmas week, the discerning consumer in Gabon's capital could choose between monkeys, chimpanzees, gazelles, and even a family of rare wild boar, a protected species....