Abstract # 5:

Scheduled for Saturday, September 19, 2009 09:30 AM-09:40 AM: Session 1 (Mission Bay Ballroom AB) Symposium


L. M. Fedigan
University of Calgary, Department of Anthropology, Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4, Canada

Field primatologists face unusual ethical issues. We study animals rather than people and receive research approval from animal care committees. However, we seldom use the invasive protocols to which most questions on animal care applications pertain. Many legal regulations exist regarding research on captive animals, but few are appropriate to field studies, which are often considered ethically non-controversial. However, field studies may include biological sampling, capture, or experiments that raise welfare issues. Even purely observational studies with habituation can raise concerns about disease transmission, facilitation of undesirable behaviors (e.g., crop-raiding) and increased vulnerability to poaching. We often work in foreign countries with national laws that must be observed and local people whose interests/customs must be respected. In spite of such pervasive dilemmas, most ethical discussions focus on biomedical research and “3R” principles (replacement, reduction, refinement), which are only debatably relevant to field work. This talk suggests relevant questions for field workers to address on animal care forms. (e.g., What are the likely benefits and possible negative effects of your presence and field methods on your study subjects, their environment and the local human community? What measures will you take to mitigate these effects?) The time has come for increased dialogue among field primatologists, published protocols for field techniques, and lobbying of animal care committees to better adapt their evaluations to the circumstances of field research.