Changes in Primatology

I was looking through the archives for the publications of the American Museum of Natural History (they are open access and available here) when I came across a set of plates for the AMNH expedition to the Congo that ran from 1909-1915. The plates displayed primates sampled by the expedition – one of which is below.

A number of the plates are of dead primates, something that could not be done today given the conservation status of most primates – changing ethics plays a role as well. Looking through the plates was occasionally jarring especially when one gets to the plates of the chimpanzees, but even some of the pictures of the monkeys collected by the expedition brought an emotional response.

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2 Responses

  1. Things have come a long way, but not far enough I feel. I’m pretty sure most people with a finger in the primatology pie would agree there. I recently saw a youtube clip of current experimentation on robotic devices controlled by direct neural implants using monkeys as the test animals. Absolutely terrible. I understand the ethical dilemma that the scientists face with experimenting with humans, but is the use of another animal really any better? Something to think about.

  2. Some years ago I went to a talk by Sherry Washburn about his career, and he talked about his first expedition, which was, I believe, in the late 1930s. Basically they went into the Asian jungle, carved out a trail some miles in a loop from their camp, and then each night he’d just go out with a powerful flashlight and a gun and shoot anything with eyes that reflected.

    Imagine the outcry if someone did that now.

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