PARTICIPANT E: My question ties in with capture for transport to the United States versus the bush meat issue. I would like to ask Dr. Rapley to explain to me what the difference would be if an animal were CITES Appendix 2 listed and that animal were captured for bush meat, which you have called disgusting (but which to me seems more of an ethical judgment than a population-based assessment) versus transporting that animal to the United States to be used for research purposes. Could you simply explain what the difference would be from the zoo community’s perspective?
DR. RAPLEY: The question is difficult, and I agree there is perhaps no easy answer. The whole idea is that we should try to protect in the wild those animals that are extremely rare. If we cannot because they are under pressure and must be rescued or moved and put in captivity, because the habitat is decreasing so rapidly, we must consider that information. For example, of the 40 species in Indonesia, many are recommended for captivity because otherwise, they will be gone as species.
Sometimes we place animals in captivity if they are endangered to conduct research on them for their own purpose. In other words, we learn how to breed them or learn about their genetics, learn about their potential for reintroduction, and things like that. So there is a wide array of different things that go on.
In Indonesia and other countries, if something is not done, there will not be any gorillas or chimpanzees in 10 to 15 years in the wild; they will be gone. It is very scary; something must happen.
I once worked extensively with a World Wildlife Fund traffic person who is based in Toronto. He showed me pictures of a transfer station in China where things are accumulated for shipment to all parts of the world for food. There were soft-shelled turtles, reptiles, and huge boxes and mammoth collections of these types of things. It seems to me that at this rate, there will not be very much left in the wild.
What I am trying to say is that I am not against biomedical research. I realize the benefits. I worked in the field directly for 8 years, and I understand why these things are important. I am just saying the really endangered species need protection and that the captive breeding such as the vervets in St. Kitts and the 20 million cynomolgus monkeys are not threatened. They are bred in captivity and they are used for biomedical research. I do not have a personal objection to that system. Nevertheless, there is a whole range of things to consider within the system.