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The purpose of
the symposium "Evolutonary neighbors"


SAGA4

Summary

Purpose

Special lecture by Dr. Jane Goodall

Participants

Abstracts

 


It is no exaggeration to claim that the great apes are the evolutionary cousins of humans. Evidence that has emerged over the past decades from a variety of disciplines as widely distributed as paleontology, physical anthropology, biochemistry, molecular biology, neuroscience, ethology, ecology, and psychology has shown that the distance separating the living great apes from humans is smaller than ever before envisaged. Long-term studies conducted on the demography, reproduction, and cultural behavior of wild populations have irreversibly reduced the man-made gap between apes and ourselves. As a result, most of the observed differences now appear quantitative rather than qualitative in nature.
The present symposium represents the gathering of both laboratory and field-based scientists with the common concern of understanding humans and great apes from an evolutionary perspective. People working in all fields of primatology are brought together. In addition to the opportunity to exchange information and to lay the foundations for future collaboration, we believe that this meeting also makes it possible for us to collectively address a further important agenda.
Human activity in the recent past has forced all great ape species to the brink of extinction in the wild. In captivity, individuals are subjected to experiments at biomedical and other research facilities, often involving invasive treatments, for example, in the study of viral diseases and gene therapy. We should attempt to and succeed in finding an acceptable solution to improve the situation under which our closest relatives must exist in captivity as well as in the wild.
Therefore we, as researchers of the great apes, must further stress how small the distances are that separate chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans from humans. We must bear in mind that all the great ape species are listed as "endangered" in CITES: numbers in the wild are decreasing. In addition, captive populations often suffer from inadequate management. Individuals survive 50 years , in some cases even longer. These characteristics are not congruent with the standards for so-called experimental animals. We believe that there need to be serious constraints on the use of great apes in invasive studies. We therefore propose the following agenda to promote our scientific understanding of all great apes.

First, we shall undertake action for the conservation of the great apes and their natural habitat.
Second, we shall endeavor to enhance the quality of life of the great apes in captivity.
Third, we shall not use the great apes as subjects in invasive studies, but promote our scientific understanding through non-invasive techniques.

For our purposes, the word non-invasive refers to treatment that causes irreversible deficits of normal function. In short, illegal or non-ethical treatment prohibited in the case of human subjects is to be likewise prohibited in the great apes.
Based on this agenda, we hope to halt current trends of habitat destruction in the wild and invasive use of great apes in captivity worldwide. People from various disciplines need to work together to support wildlife conservation programs and to develop suitable conditions for the life of the great apes in captivity.
We hope that people all over the world will demonstrate their approval and support for our attempt toward a better life for the great apes in the 21st century.