Stop it! Selfie-taking tourists putting gorillas COVID-19 risk

Trust us, you do not need a photo with a gorilla, especially now as we’re all grappling with the coronavirus pandemic.

According to new research from Oxford Brookes University, people visiting animals in East Africa could spread diseases and viruses.

You know, everyone wants to make their Instagram look good, so they’re getting up close and personal with gorillas to take photos. But in their search for social media attention, they are putting these animals at risk. This is according to a press release from the university on Tuesday.

“The risk of disease transmission between visitors and gorillas is very concerning,” said study lead author Gaspard Van Hamme, an Oxford Brookes University alumnus who started work on the study during his masters program.”

“It is vital that we strengthen and enforce tour regulations to ensure gorilla trekking practices do not further threaten these already imperiled great apes.”

Mountain gorillas are listed as endangered, with an estimated 1,063 of them left in the wild, according to the release.

Researchers looked at 858 photos posted on Instagram from 2013-2019 under two hashtags #gorillatrekking and #gorillatracking said the study.

Of that number, 86% showed people within four meters (13.1 feet) of gorillas, and 25 of those photos showed tourists touching gorillas. Researchers found tourists were close enough to the East African primates to make transmission possible.