Research Center Withdraws Proposal to Conduct HIV/AIDS Experiments on Monkeys
October 25, 2006
The Yerkes National Primate Research Center last month withdrew its proposal to conduct HIV/AIDS research on sooty mangabeys, an endangered monkey species that carries a form of HIV, the AP/Washington Post reports (Stobbe, AP/Washington Post, 10/23). Yerkes, based at Emory University, proposed to help conserve sooty mangabeys in the African wild in exchange for permission to conduct HIV/AIDS research on captive sooties, which Yerkes scientists have cared for since the late 1960s. Sooties were listed by U.S. officials as an endangered species in 1988. Yerkes in 2005 began providing up to $30,000 annually to a primatologist for sooty conservation and research efforts in the Tai National Park Reserve in Cote d'Ivoire. The center wrote to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in July 2005 seeking to conduct HIV/AIDS research using its captive sooties, "given our contribution to sooty ... conservation." Federal officials have said that a "trade off" request has never been permitted. Primate specialist Jane Goodall and 18 other researchers in a letter to the Fish and Wildlife Service called on the agency to reject a proposal by Yerkes to conduct the research. According to the Goodall letter, approving such a proposal "could open the floodgates to future permit applications premised on allowing entities to kill or otherwise harm endangered species in exchange for making financial contributions to conservation programs" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/23). James Else, associate director for research resources for Yerkes, in a Sept. 14 letter to the agency, said the center decided to withdraw the proposal "in light of the possible reconsideration of the sooty mangabey classification status." Government officials confirmed the decision on Monday, the AP/Post reports. Yerkes representatives declined to discuss the proposal withdrawal and last week issued a statement saying the center will continue to support sooty conservation, according to the AP/Post (AP/Washington Post, 10/23).
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