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BioScience article argues for official recognition of taxon-specific research guides

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The current issue of BioScience (September 2012) includes an article co-authored by OC Executive Director Ellen Paul, Bob Sikes (Chair of the American Society of Mammalogists Animal Care and Use Committee), and Steve Beaupre (President of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists).


The paper (attached) explains why the Guide to the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, known as the ILAR Guide )published by the Institute of Laboratory Animal Resources of the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science) which is the official reference document used by the federal grant-making agencies, is a poor fit for reviewing research involving wildlife. It goes on to explain why the taxon-specific guidelines:


Guide to the Care and Use of Wild Birds in Research



Guidelines of the American Society of Mammalogists for the Use of Wild Mammals in Research



Guidelines for the Use of Live Amphibians and Reptiles in Field and Laboratory Research


merit formal recognition by the federal grant-making agencies as the appropriate standards for reviewing wildlife research protocols.



Wildlife researchers and IACUC members alike have expressed concern about the legal requirement that they comply with the ILAR Guide, even though the Guide has little useful guidance for wildlife research; they would like to be able to meet the legal requirement while applying biologically appropriate standards.


As the paper explains, "Prior to 1986, PHS policy covered mainly the maintenance of laboratory animals in captivity. In 1986, that policy was extended to cover experimental procedures. Because the NSF, which funded the most substantial part of wildlife research, required adherence to the PHS policy, this change also affected wildlife research. At the time, there were no accepted humane policies pertaining to field research. As a result, IACUCs had no guidance for reviewing protocols for wildlife research and were making widely varying decisions. Recognizing this problem, the NSF urged the presidents of the appropriate scientific societies in 1986 to develop guide- lines for the appropriate handling of their taxa. Funding from the NSF facilitated these efforts, and 1987 and 1988 saw the publication of taxon-based guidelines for mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, and fishes (Orlans 1988)."


The authors hope that this paper will be useful to wildlife researchers and the IACUC members who review their research protocols. To make the best use of this paper, the co-authors urge you to ensure that all members of your IACUC and all colleagues working with wild species of vertebrates see this article. We further recommend that this paper be cited in all future animal care and use proposals and papers involving wild vertebrates as clear justification for using taxon-specific guidelines as the most appropriate references for wildlife research. These actions by all investigators working with wild vertebrates will underscore the validity of taxon-specific guidelines for wildlife research rather than guidelines developed for biomedical laboratory research. We feel that by getting this message out to all investigators working with wildlife and having broad acceptance of taxon-specific guidelines as appropriate standards for the preparation and review of wildlife protocols, our taxon-specific guidelines will quickly become the standard for this type of research.



We recommend language similar to the following in all future publications using wild vertebrates:



Because taxon-specific guidelines are the appropriate references for wildlife research (Sikes et al., 2012), we followed these guidelines:






Fair J, Paul E, and Jones J. (eds.) 2010. Guidelines to the use of Wild Birds in Research, 3d Edition. Washington, D.C.:The Ornithological Council. Available online at


Sikes et al 2012.pdf

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