As the Ebola epidemic continues to sweep across West Africa, fear is so great that people have begun to abandon their pet big cats and monkeys out of panic, leading local zoos to take in these animals to prevent potential spread of the deadly virus.

The AFP visited one Ivory Coast zoo where vets have created a quarantine zone, with cages of animals in isolation to prevent exposure to the virus. Though none of the animals appears infected with Ebola, the zoo is keeping them isolated out of precaution because they don't know all the animals' history.

Researchers have suggested that fruit bats could be to blame for the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, passing on the disease to forest antelopes and primates, whose meat is eaten in many African countries. The WHO has warned that people "should reduce contact with high-risk infected animals (i.e. fruit bats, monkeys or apes) in the affected areas."

There have not been any confirmed cases of Ebola in the Ivory Coast, but the disease has killed almost 1,800 people in neighbouring Liberia and Guinea alone and a total 2,600 in the four countries where the disease has hit, including Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

Read the AFP's profile of the zoo in Abidjan here.  

An unaffected monkey — Photo: Mohammed Talatene/APA Images/ZUMA