: In the News : Current
Rhino News : Annelisa Kilbourn, 35, Expert Who
Linked Ebola to Death of Gorillas, Is Dead
Annelisa Kilbourn, 35, Expert Who Linked Ebola
to Death of Gorillas, Is Dead
||NEW YORK TIMES
November 5, 2002
By PAUL LEWIS
Annelisa M. Kilbourn, a British veterinarian and wildlife
expert, who established that gorillas can die of the deadly
Ebola virus, was killed on Saturday when the light plane
she was flying in crashed in the Lope Nature Preserve in
the Central African nation of Gabon. She was 35.
Working for the Wildlife Conservation Society, which
announced her death on Monday from its headquarters at the
Bronx Zoo, Dr. Kilbourn was investigating last year's Ebola
outbreak in that country and its relationship to the
indigenous gorilla population.
Earlier this year, Dr. Kilbourn established for the first
time that Ebola is a serious threat to wild gorillas as
well as to humans when she found dead specimens in the
jungle and found that the disease had killed them, the
Her findings had important implications for the
preservation of Africa's primates as well as for the spread
of the disease among humans. Scientists had already noted
that an earlier outbreak of Ebola in the same area in 1996
had led to a sharp decline in the gorilla population and
now they knew why.
They also now knew that Ebola as well as predatory hunting
by humans, is one of the reasons gorillas are fast
disappearing from Africa's forests.
Dr. Kilbourn's discovery also made it increasingly
important to protect the major concentration of gorillas,
believed to be the largest left in the world, living in the
nearby Odzala National Park, about 100 kilometers away over
the border in Congo, by controlling access to them by
humans and animals that might be carrying the virus. Before
her death Dr. Kilbourn had herself been in charge of
protecting the health of these animals.
Finally, the knowledge that gorillas as well as chimpanzees
and monkeys are vulnerable to Ebola implied that one of the
ways the disease spreads among humans is through the
hunting and eating of infected primates.
Ebola is a poorly understood tropical disease that erupts
from time to time in various parts of Africa and for which
there is no cure. The disease can cause internal organs to
liquefy; about 70 percent of its human victims die.
Annelisa Marcelle Kilbourn was born June 27 1967, in
Zurich. A British citizen, she received bachelor's degrees
in ecology and in environmental biology at the University
of Connecticut in 1990 and graduated in veterinary medicine
from Tufts University in 1996.
From 1996 to 1998 Dr. Kilbourn worked in Malaysia with a
Wildlife Health Fellowship from the Wildlife Conservation
Society, helping protect free ranging orangutans and
Upon completion of this project she took a two-year
position at the Lincoln Park Zoo and Shedd Aquarium in
Chicago. Later she accepted a permanent position at the
Shedd but also worked with the SOS Rhino project to save
Borneo's rhinos, and with the Wildlife Conservation Society
in Central Africa.
Dr. Kilbourn is survived by her parents, Hans and Barry
Kilbourn of Norwalk, Conn., and by her sister, Kirsten
Kilbourn of South Windsor, Conn.