27 May 2021, Bomassa, Nouabale Ndoki, Republic of Congo - Line LobaLoba Ingoba and Hermeland Mouzinga Freisnel are PHD students of Immunology. They are trainees at the Foundation Congolai pour la Recherche Medicale and are in Bomassa to do a Covid-19 survey from a 200-person sample of local villagers. They are seen testing samples in a portable isolation tent with negative pressure and filtered air for safety. Both Covid-19 and Ebola antibodies have been found in the samples. The public health implications for Nouabale Ndoki National Park are centered around its large great ape population. This research is focused on how Covid 19 may be transmitted to the gorillas, who are particularly susceptible to human diseases. The community around the park is largely pygmy, who's main protein source is bushmeat. 80% of all gorilla populations live outside the park and contact between humans and gorillas are not uncommon as the villagers enter the forest to forage and hunt. Gorillas are in decline due to habitat loss and expanding human population. The pressure of human diseases on gorillas is inevitable and this kind of research is key to future solutions.
The SWM Programme activities in Congo focus on the forest concessions that constitute the wild meat (game and fish) supply basin of the town of Ouesso. Hunting and fishing are important sources of food and income. To secure the sustainable use of wild protein by the local populations of traditional villages (indigenous and Bantu) located in these forest concessions, the project operates at three scales. The aim is to balance the supply and demand for wild meat products in 1) traditional villages, 2) secondary towns and forest camps and 3) cities. Community hunting areas overlap with logging concessions. Some of the concession are FSC certified and are working with the SWM Programme to achieve sustainable levels of hunting and prohibit the sale of wild meat.