Department of Primatology
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6
phone: +49 (341) 3550 - 200
fax: +49 (341) 3550 - 299
The majority of our research activities are conducted in the field observing wild primate populations in their natural environment, mainly African great apes. Research activities inevitably add an artificial component to the lives of the animals under study and may have consequences that are not always easy to predict. We thus acknowledge that our research presence has an impact on wild populations and the following measures are undertaken to minimize our impact on the well being of the animals we work with.
Genetic, hormonal, behavioural and immunological sampling
As a rule, we will limit our sampling on wild apes and other primates to be done non-invasively without touching, trapping or tagging the animals. The following materials can be collected without directly contacting the animals under study: faeces, shed hairs, urine, semen, discarded food items.
We may occasionally obtain sample materials, such as DNAs, from researchers who have collected samples using invasive methods. For example, blood samples may be taken during necessary veterinary treatment of mountain gorillas, and these samples may be useful for genetic analyses. As another example, researchers studying baboons may dart and temporarily immobilize animals in order to take blood samples and conduct phenotypic assessments, and we may use portions of these blood samples or products derived from them. In all such cases of invasive sampling, care should be taken to confirm that the sampling work was done in accordance with approved protocols and that the sampling caused only transient discomfort or social disturbance.
Blood or tissue samples may also be obtained from zoo or sanctuary animals during routine medical checkups. Provided that the sampling protocol follows the guidelines described by the respective zoological society and the governmental authority, such samples may also be used for genetic or physiologic studies.
Tissue samples may be obtained from corpses of wild animals during necropsies. Because of the risk of disease transmission such samples should only be taken by trained professionals.
In all cases, sampling must be done with the full permission of local park and government authorities under the guidelines of the host country.
Habituating new groups
Habituation is an invasive process into the natural behaviour of wild animals. However it is assumed that most of the behavioural alterations observed in the initial phase are reversible. Nevertheless, habituation represents additional risks for the animals since it makes them more vulnerable to poaching, induces physical and psychological stress, and exposes them to zoonotic disease transmission due to increased close contact with humans. Thus, habituation is carried out as follows:
Experiments in the field
Experiments in the field with wild animals could be done provided:
Disease transmission to wild populations
Observations of wild populations may increase the risk of disease transmission. In order to minimize that risk all our field projects have developed site-specific hygiene and research rules which can be found below under ‘Field site-specific regulations’. In general, research staff should:
With respect to emergency situations (e.g. disease outbreak) which concern the health and well-being of an individual, social group or population under study, we limit our veterinary intervention to anthropogenically induced injury or illness. This may also include vaccinating wild individuals if deemed necessary by government officials and/or field site directors with the aid of veterinary specialists.
Establishment and maintenance of field sites
We recognize that the creation of field sites has a long-term impact on the surrounding forest and ecosystem. To minimize this we take the following measures:
Involvement of local people
Research projects should include members of the local population. This includes:
|Conservation of endangered populations|
Researchers are encouraged, when possible, to contribute actively to the conservation of the species they study by:
We would also refer those interested to a publication from our department showing empirical evidence for long-term research presence contributing to the conservation of chimpanzees, as well as other wildlife, in a national park (http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2011/03/24/rsbl.2011.0155)
Field site specific regulations
Links to field guidelines for each field site.
*Please note, ethics clearance for research directly involving human subjects is requested formally from established committees of relevant institutions.
All research activities undertaken by members of the MPI-EVA primatology department are regulated by German and EU laws and attempt to adhere to the above guidelines. In addition, our joint research project collaborations are conducted with organizations who also take into consideration our ethics guidelines. However, we recognize that the above list is not exhaustive of all our research activities, actual or potential, and as such novel situations are always reviewed in a case by case basis.
Adopted by the senate of the Max Planck Society on November 24, 2000, amended on March 20, 2009: http://www.mpg.de/197494/rulesScientificPractice.pdf