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Protecting great apes from disease: Compliance with measures to reduce anthroponotic disease transmission

Nuno, Ana; Chesney, Chloe; Wellbelove, Maia; Bersacola, Elena; Kalema-Zikusoka, Gladys; Leendertz, Fabian; Webber, Amanda D.; Hockings, Kimberley J.

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Ana Nuno

Chloe Chesney

Maia Wellbelove

Elena Bersacola

Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka

Fabian Leendertz

Amanda D. Webber

Kimberley J. Hockings


The emergence of infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, impacts livelihood strategies and conservation tools reliant on human-wildlife interactions, such as wildlife-based tourism and research. This is particularly relevant to great ape conservation, as humans and great apes are susceptible to being infected by similar pathogens. Evidence-based strategies are required to prevent infectious disease transmission to great apes and people involved in, or living close to, tourism sites. The development of disease-safe recommendations and their effective operationalisation require an understanding of what affects visitor compliance. Based on an international sample of past (N= 420) and potential future visitors (N= 569) to wild great ape tourism sites in Africa, we used an online questionnaire to characterise visitors' practices, assess expectations (e.g. about proximity to great apes) and identify key factors related to potential compliance with disease mitigation measures. This was implemented adapting a framework from health literature (the Health Belief Model; HBM), particularly focused on reducing COVID-19 transmission at an early stage of the pandemic. Visitors expressed less willingness to being vaccinated against COVID-19 (which, at the time our survey was conducted, had only just started being administered to very high-risk groups), wearing a facemask during trekking (although willing when viewing the apes) and quarantine after international travel before visiting great apes. Region of nationality, expectations about the visitor experience and perceived effectiveness of specific measures were important factors explaining variation in potential compliance across multiple behaviours. By gaining a better understanding of what fosters compliance with disease mitigation measures, we obtained insights that are essential for assessing feasibility, facilitating effective communication, and guiding implementation at great ape tourism sites with importance not only for COVID-19 but also for other infectious diseases more broadly, particularly at early stages of future pandemics. While requiring adaptive management as situations evolve (e.g. vaccination becoming more widely accessible), these will contribute towards a more sustainable visitor experience that can effectively deliver positive outcomes for people and biodiversity. Read the free Plain Language Summary for this article on the Journal blog.


Nuno, A., Chesney, C., Wellbelove, M., Bersacola, E., Kalema-Zikusoka, G., Leendertz, F., …Hockings, K. J. (2022). Protecting great apes from disease: Compliance with measures to reduce anthroponotic disease transmission. People and Nature, 4(5), 1387-1400.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 30, 2022
Online Publication Date Sep 4, 2022
Publication Date Oct 1, 2022
Deposit Date Sep 6, 2022
Publicly Available Date Sep 8, 2022
Journal People and Nature
Print ISSN 2575-8314
Electronic ISSN 2575-8314
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 4
Issue 5
Pages 1387-1400
Keywords Disease ecology, RESEARCH ARTICLE, RESEARCH ARTICLES, African tourism, disease mitigation regulations, infectious disease, nature‐based tourism, pandemic, primate conservation, SARS‐CoV‐2, zoonoses
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Received: 2021-08-25; Accepted: 2022-06-30; Published Online: 2022-09-04


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