Life threatening diseases like HIV, Ebola and Monkey Pox may be mild compared to other diseases outbreak that may occur in future if adequate expertise is not applied to wild conservation and management.
Professor George Ogunjemite made the submission while delivering the 92nd Inaugural Lecture at the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA).
Speaking on the topic ‘Monkeys and Apes: Man in Its Reminiscence’ the professor of primate community ecology said man must handle primates and other mammals in his environment with utmost care in order to maintain quality of life and the peaceful co-existence of all living things and prevent catastrophic diseases and plaques that can debilitate the human race.
He said most of the infectious agents affecting apes can affect human and vice versa. According to him, the remarkable genetic and physiological similarities between chimpanzee and human explain why they may be easily affected by the same disease causative agents.
He cited the example of the HIV-1 and HIV-2 which are of zoonotic origin with their closest relatives in chimpanzee and related species.
He also stressed that the newly emerged threat of ‘Ebola’ and ‘monkey pox’ diseases are often products of disturbances of ecological balance in the environment.
Professor Ogunjemite further said for human not to encounter a far deadlier disease than the prevailing ones, all and sundry must develop strong commitment and love for the conservation of all other living resources.
He declared that non-human primates provide an important data source for understanding many aspects of human behaviour and physiology. He said important advances in medicine and drug effects have come from the experimental use of monkeys and apes.
Professor Ogunjemite said it is evident that man has always profited from his natural environment in maintaining his health and that man will continue to depend on these animals to improve upon his health conditions.
The lecturer defined primates as a mammalian order to which humans belong and one of the dominant species of animals in West Africa sub-region. He said primates are mostly forest dwelling animals that are very important tropical biodiversity essential for various ecological processes, functions and services.
Professor Ogunjemite said primates are the next set of animals to man and the mirror with which we observe ourselves on the evolutionary history.
He pointed out that they live in organised community and have government of their own with the greatest differences between homo and the great apes relatives being the fact that humans have developed a sophisticated spoken, written and electronic language that enables him to plan far into the future and ability to learn from the past. This human highly evolved intellect according to him, gives him ability to make decisions regarding the life and death of his entire specie.
On the way forward Ogunjemite proposed that primate based ecotourism should be encouraged for tourist enjoyment, thereby promoting opportunities to admire and support conservation of the species and other animals living within the forest.
He also suggested that saving reserves such as the one in Ifon, Ondo State should be pursued because of its strategic location as an Ecotone for the forest and savannah ecologies of South West Nigeria, as the reserve harbours a high number of primate’s species of rainforest and savannah ecosystem of the region.
Introducing the lecturer, Chairman at the event and Vice Chancellor, Professor Joseph Fuwape described him as a vibrant academic who has served the university in various capacities and contributed positively to learning and research and human capacity development in his area of specialization.