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Animals dying for museum studies

ButterfliesA letter to FRAME expressed concern that scientists still collect and kill samples of many different animals each year to add to museum collections.


Many of the specimens are rare and endangered species but they are collected, killed and stored so that researchers can study them closely in the confines of museums and laboratories. The museum worker asked FRAME to help her publicise the fact that potentially millions of animals of all kinds, including lizards, birds, small mammals and insects, are killed each year.


The letter said:


September 2009

I work at a museum as a biologist. Working in conservation can be fulfilling but also troubling. I realise that you mainly aim your thoughts and attention towards animals in research, but surprisingly animals in conservation can be equally abused.
For some reason scientists, even with today's digital photography, insist on collecting specimens, indiscriminately killing, and in some cases, using very primitive methods, such as drowning in alcohol, the particular species they are studying. Some of these animals are extremely rare and endangered, often under enormous pressure from development and agriculture. Once these specimens are taken, their genes are permanently removed from the gene pool. For smaller animals such as water beetles and other invertebrates, the sheer numbers killed and the methods utilised, beggars belief and all in the name of science.
When one takes into consideration all the other scientists from all over the world the numbers become mind numbing. I recently asked one post doctoral researcher how they killed the lizards they had collected and understood they were just placed in a fridge! Some of these specimens were extremely rare.
I even witnessed a scientist at the museum who was asked to consider a rare beetle that may have to be added to the red list. His reply to this was "will it mean I can't study it any more, because if so I won't recommend this beetle as highly endangered," I found his view grossly irresponsible and selfish.
I feel that conservation has lost its way, and the method of killing the specimens and sheer numbers being collected needs desperately to be assessed, but there is no charity that I know of that deals with these issues. FRAME is the only organisation that I know of, that comes anywhere near to considering how we as humans use and abuse, even under the flag of conservation!
Yours hopefully
Name and address supplied


Story archived October 13 2009