More free-range research!

Another reblogged good’n from Brandon Keim of Wired Science, discussing primatologist Pascal Gagneux’s argument that free-range research is WAY better for all primates involved, including humans:

“Gagneux, who is noted for both his comparisons of human and chimpanzee genetics and his critical bioethical analysis of chimp research, says it’s about time we studied chimpanzees humanely. He’d like to see forest-size chimp-research facilities that would allow scientists to continue studying our closest relative, while protecting the endangered species in something close to its natural habitat.

“Not everyone thinks this is a good idea. ‘Chimpanzees should be in sanctuaries to live out the rest of their lives without any blood drawing or having their bodies studied after death,’ said Deborah Fouts, co-director of the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute. She is renowned for her work with Washoe, the first non-human primate to learn sign language. ‘Humans can volunteer to have their bodies used for science after death. Chimpanzees cannot.’

“Researchers also caution that captive research populations will never take the place of wild chimpanzees. ‘Chimps raised in captivity have no knowledge base about dealing with the natural environment,’ said Linda Brent, director of Chimp Haven, which houses chimpanzees retired from government research. The jungle is no longer their home, and won’t ever be again.”

Read full post.

Personally, I am with Gagneux. It is inhumane, inprimate, to keep chimpanzees in cages and indoors not letting them lead normal lives. Even if they wouldn’t know how to act in a wild jungle, they would certainly do better in a large enclosure with trees and things to play with. At the same time, many humans will never be comfortable with the Fouts’ idea (Both Deborah and her husband Roger) that chimps should never, ever, ever be used for any type of research ever again. It’s going to be a long time before people are willing to do that. BUT giving chimpanzees a nice, humane/primate place to live is a good start.