the Rehabilitation of Laboratory Primates
by Linda Koebner
This book is about how animals are treated in labs, particularly chimpanzees. It discusses why animals are used in experiments, the deplorable conditions they live in, how their capture from the wild depletes wild populations, and some (new at the time) programs attempting to give them better living conditions which would encourage them to reproduce, thus replenishing their numbers for science (taking pressure off wild populations).
I had two problems with this book, although one is not really its fault. First of all, the writing style is very dry and factual, a bit dull to take in. Except for a few refreshing chapters which suddenly describe what the animals might be feeling. They're easier to read, but subjective and feel a bit out of place compared to the rest of the text. Secondly, the information itself is outdated. I'm sure the treatment of animals in laboratory science and captive breeding have come a long way since the 1980's. This book predicted that at the end of its decade, chimps would be extinct in the wild. Though they are still critically endangered, they're certainly not gone yet. I can't imagine a child (it's juvenile non-fiction) reading this book- either they would be bored stiff, or upset by some of the unpleasant descriptions. Also, most of the individual people and chimpanzees mentioned in the book I've actually read about in other books, in far greater depth, back when I had a reading craze about great apes. So there just really wasn't much here for me. This is one case where I can see why it was culled (I got the book at a library sale). There's just better, more up-to-date material out there.
There was one point made near the end which got me thinking. The author talks about the importance of breeding programs collaborating with other facilities and zoos, so as to have the widest gene pool possible. At the same time, she says, the more docile chimps are most likely to be used for breeding, as they're easier to handle. Could we inadvertently, by only using the docile animals, be breeding a tamer or even domesticated chimpanzee? Thinking of all the books I've read recently on how dogs and cats became domesticated, this doesn't seem like such a wild surmise. But I feel fairly certain that's not happening.
Rating: 2/5 ........ 116 pages, 1984