Jane Goodall is by now a household name amongst nearly everyone I know. Her work with chimpanzees in Gombe set the stage for awareness and advocacy towards non-human primates. Goodall has recently expanded her advocacy towards medical research on Cercocebus atys, also known as Sooty Mangabey monkeys. Sooty Mangabeys are listed as an endangered primate species and some medical institutes look to gather more wild C. atys to conduct research, since most in captivity have been breed to be immune to AIDS.
I’ve seen many news pieces on the topic, most of which derive from the Associated Press circulation that documents,
“[Goodall’s] letter urges the US Fish & Wildlife Service to reject a request by the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, according to a copy filed with the government… Yerkes officials are proposing to help conserve sooties in the African wild in exchange for permission to do AIDS-related research on captive sooties.”
I share the sentiments of PETA who believe that should the Yerkes deal go through, it would potentially permit applications premised on allowing entities to kill or otherwise harm endangered species in exchange for making financial contributions to conservation programs.
However, I understand but do not condone inhumane treatment of primates used for medical research. A relatively older research paper on immune system reaction of Sooty mangabeys to HIV conducted by Yerkes research in 1986 has been really influential in understanding this devastating epidemic. Ultimately, I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place — how do we be humane towards endangered primates but also effectively study to prevent the deaths of hundreds of thousands of humans? Is there a way we can find a balance?