Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday's Primate Party

I shouldn't really call this a party, given the subject matter of the article in question, but for the sake of consistency... reports that Mauritius is exporting macaque monkeys at $70 a head for research in the US, UK and Japan. The money is used to fund local conservation efforts.

As a scientist who loves primates, I have very mixed feelings about this story. I never did animal work myself, having managed to avoid projects that required it, but I fully understand the need for animal models in some kinds of research. Primates are unfortunately necessary in some areas, especially as models of human disease - even though they're not perfect, they're the best we have - and I sincerely hope that the importing countries only use these animals when there are no other options.

Another factor is that macaques are apparently seen as a nuisance in Mauritius, eating crops, killing endangered birds, and other monkey business. The captured monkeys are reportedly kept under good conditions.

Overall, it seems like a win-win situation for all involved - except the monkeys. And I still feel ambivalent. I have to admit that I'd naively assumed most Western research animals were captive-bred, and I think it's the capture of animals from the wild that bothers me here.

I'll close by repeating two words from above.

Necessary. Unfortunately.

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