The ancient Buddhist temple of Swayambhunath sits on top of a hill in West Kathmandu and is one of the most important holy sites in Nepal. It is known as the “Monkey Temple” due to the large number of monkeys living on the grounds.
“These temple sites are a perfect example of how monkeys and humans live together in close proximity to each other,” says Dr. Tierra Smiley Evans of the UC Davis One Health Institute, who spent time in Nepal working with local field scientists from the Center for Molecular Dynamics, Nepal on non-invasive techniques for collecting saliva from the monkeys. The work is part of the PREDICT project, a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funded project that seeks to identify emerging infectious diseases that could become a threat to human health.
“I think it’s really important to make people aware that diseases can come from animals,” says Dr. Smiley Evans. “We are discovering new viruses and new disease scenarios where there is a lot more contact with wildlife and people, and where transmission between species is most important.”