All human Ebola virus outbreaks during 2001–2003 in the forest zone between Gabon and Republic of Congo resulted from handling infected wild animal carcasses. After the first outbreak, we created an Animal Mortality Monitoring Network in collaboration with the Gabonese and Congolese Ministries of Forestry and Environment and wildlife organizations (Wildlife Conservation Society and Programme de Conservation et Utilisation Rationnelle des Ecosystèmes Forestiers en Afrique Centrale) to predict and possibly prevent human Ebola outbreaks.
Since August 2001, 98 wild animal carcasses have been recovered by the network, including 65 great apes. Analysis of 21 carcasses found that 10 gorillas, 3 chimpanzees, and 1 duiker tested positive for Ebola virus. Wild animal outbreaks began before each of the 5 human Ebola outbreaks. Twice we alerted the health authorities to an imminent risk for human outbreaks, weeks before they occurred.