ATLANTA -- Primate specialist Jane Goodall and 18 other researchers sent a letter to federal officials urging them to oppose an Atlanta research center's proposal to do AIDS-related research on sooty mangabey monkeys.
The letter urges the US Fish & Wildlife Service to reject a request by the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, according to a copy filed with the government.
Scientists at the research center have nurtured a group of the primates, which are natural carriers of a form of the AIDS virus but don't get sick from it, since the late 1960s. But federal officials listed them as endangered in 1988, leaving the center with the world's largest collection of captive sooties but little hope of scientific benefit.
Yerkes officials are proposing to help conserve sooties in the African wild in exchange for permission to do AIDS-related research on captive sooties.
Federal officials have said such a trade-off has never before been permitted. In a letter dated June 19, Goodall and others say they hope it never will be.
The letter, provided to the Associated Press by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said approving such a deal ``could open the floodgates to future permit applications premised on allowing entities to kill or otherwise harm endangered species in exchange for making financial contributions to conservation programs."
PETA, the New England Anti-Vivisection Society, and eight other advocacy groups also submitted comments opposing the research center's application.
Goodall began studying chimpanzees in Tanzania in 1960. Her studies have helped revolutionize human understanding of chimps.