Embattled Ape Researcher Reinstated

A controversial primate researcher is back at work after being cleared of endangering bonobos under her care, but critics are demanding an external enquiry.

By | November 26, 2012

Wikimedia, EvanmacleanAn ape research facility in Des Moines, Iowa, has reinstated a controversial researcher following an internal investigation into claims that she was not properly looking after the bonobos in her care.

In September, the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary (IPLS) placed then executive director Susan Savage-Rumbaugh—a pioneer in human-ape communication—on administrative leave and launched an investigation after former employees alleged that her behaviour put the apes at risk. The 12 whistleblowers accused Savage-Rumbaugh of allowing incestuous copulations between the apes, forgetting where she had left the apes, locking them outside without access to water for hours at a time, and exposing them to people without the necessary vaccinations, among other allegations.

Earlier this month (November 6), an adult female called Panbanisha died of a respiratory illness, which prompted anthropologist Barbara King of William and Mary College—who has spent time with the apes at IPLS—to write to the sanctuary’s board expressing her concerns about Savage-Rumbaugh’s management.

But last week (November 20) the IPLS board announced that its internal investigation committee “found that the bonobos are well cared for and was unable to substantiate the allegations against Dr. Savage-Rumbaugh, in part because they encountered significant counterevidence against the claims.” The board reinstated Savage-Rumbaugh as resident scientist but made veterinarian Julie Gilmore executive director to provide constant “veterinary guidance and oversight.”

In response, lawyers for 11 of the 12 whistleblowers have asked to see documents related to the investigation, as well as those from a similar investigation conducted in 2011. “The former employees continue to suggest to the Board that an internal investigation may not be sufficient under the circumstances,” said a statement from Dickey & Campbell Law Firm in Des Moines, according to ScienceInsider. “An external, transparent investigation would be prudent in the wake of Panbanisha's recent death."

Barbara King agreed. “I don’t find it as easy to dismiss the documented concerns of the [whistleblowers] as those who voted on these matters,” she told Scientific American. “The bonobos deserve that hard questions get asked; they also deserve a proper, external investigation into the [whistleblowers′] observations and evidence.”

Add a Comment

Avatar of: You



Sign In with your LabX Media Group Passport to leave a comment

Not a member? Register Now!

LabX Media Group Passport Logo

Popular Now

  1. How Gaining and Losing Weight Affects the Body
    Daily News How Gaining and Losing Weight Affects the Body

    Millions of measurements from 23 people who consumed extra calories every day for a month reveal changes in proteins, metabolites, and gut microbiota that accompany shifts in body mass.

  2. That Other CRISPR Patent Dispute
    Daily News That Other CRISPR Patent Dispute

    The Broad Institute and Rockefeller University disagree over which scientists should be named as inventors on certain patents involving the gene-editing technology.

  3. EPO Revokes Broad’s CRISPR Patent
    The Nutshell EPO Revokes Broad’s CRISPR Patent

    Shortly after ruling out the earliest priority dates on a foundational patent for CRISPR gene-editing technology, the European Patent Office rescinded the patent entirely—and more are likely to follow.

  4. Learning Opens the Genome
    Daily News Learning Opens the Genome

    Researchers map learning-induced chromatin alterations in mouse brain cells, and find that many affect autism-associated genes.