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Ecotourism could be harming wildlife - scientists

Ecotourism could be harming wildlife - scientists
LONDON - Ecotourism may be endangering wildlife by spreading human diseases to animals and is probably responsible for three outbreaks of tuberculosis in mongooses and meerkats in Africa, according to a study.
Scientists in Botswana\'s Chobe national park have documented how the human pathogen was passed on to mongooses in the popular park and followed an outbreak that killed meerkats in the Kalahari Desert. \"The threat from human infections is certainly real enough,\" New Scientist magazine said yesterday. Kathleen Alexander, Botswana\'s Senior Wildlife Veterinary Officer, and her team believe the mongooses picked up the illness from contaminated rubbish heaps in the park. They suspect the meerkats were infected from local people because no animals in the region are known carriers of human TB. Ecotourism is a major source of revenue for wildlife conservation in Africa but Alexander thinks contact between the animals and humans should be minimised to reduce the threat of infection. The AIDS epidemic, which has swept through Africa, may also be contributing to the problem. People suffering from HIV/AIDS and TB are more likely to infect animals because they shed more of the bacterium. More than a third of Botswana\'s population is afflicted with HIV. \"We need to be addressing the threat that humans pose to wildlife,\" Alexander told the magazine. REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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