Annelisa Kilbourn, 35; Studied Ebola Virus’ Effects on Gorillas
Annelisa M. Kilbourn, 35, a veterinarian and wildlife expert who found that gorillas are vulnerable to the Ebola virus, died in a plane crash Saturday in the Central African nation of Gabon.
A British citizen who was born in Zurich, Switzerland, Kilbourn studied ecology and environmental biology at the University of Connecticut, graduating in 1990. She earned a degree in veterinary medicine at Tufts University in 1996.
She was working for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s field veterinary program when an Ebola epidemic swept across Northern Gabon and Congo last year, killing humans and at least 30 gorillas.
Her discovery that Ebola was killing gorillas has major implications for the preservation of Africa’s primates and for understanding how hunting and eating infected primates may spread the disease. Ebola and predatory hunting are believed to be the primary threats to wild gorillas.
Kilbourn helped train local personnel to take biological samples and make observations for an ongoing study of gorilla health. She also worked in Borneo, where she studied Sumatran rhinos; and in Malaysia, where she focused on orangutans trapped by agricultural development in the rain forest.