Balancing the costs of wildlife research with the benefits of understanding a panzootic disease, white-nose syndrome

  • Reeder D
  • Field K
  • Slater M
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Abstract

Additional ethical issues surrounding wildlife research compared with biomedical research include consideration of the harm of research to the ecosystem as a whole and the benefits of conservation to the same species of animals under study. Research on white-nose syndrome in bats provides a case study to apply these considerations to determine whether research that harms ecosystems under crisis is justified. By expanding well-established guidelines for animal and human subjects research, we demonstrate that this research can be considered highly justified. Studies must minimize the amount of harm to the ecosystem while maximizing the knowledge gained. However, the likelihood of direct application of the results of the research for conservation should not necessarily take priority over other considerations, particularly when the entire context of the ecologic disaster is poorly understood. Since the emergence of white-nose syndrome, researchers have made great strides in understanding this panzootic disease and are now in a position to utilize this knowledge to mitigate this wildlife crisis.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Animal collection
  • Animal use
  • Bioethics
  • Chiroptera
  • White-nose syndrome
  • Wildlife research

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