PCRM in East Africa
PCRM’s Hope Ferdowsian, M.D., M.P.H., and Debra Durham, Ph.D., recently traveled to East Africa to collect data for a study on mental health in chimpanzees previously used in laboratories. This is Dr. Ferdowsian’s journal entry at the end of the trip:
May 10, 2010
We’ve just reached the end of our journey in East Africa, and it has been a phenomenal trip. We’ve collected data on more than 300 chimpanzees in the wild and in African sanctuaries. This data will be the basis for comparison with chimpanzees previously used in research and currently in sanctuaries in the United States, Japan, and the Netherlands, for our study on mental illness in traumatized chimpanzees. We haven’t been afraid to get our hands (and feet) dirty while here. Deb helped with chimpanzee care when she wasn’t collecting data, and I worked with a response team to help resolve a medical outbreak.
While Deb finished the week by wrapping up data collection for our chimpanzee study, I concluded a week of media interviews and presentations at the University of Nairobi campuses for the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Colleges of Medicine, Pharmacy, and Dentistry. At the university, I talked with enthusiastic students and faculty members about alternatives to the use of animals in education and research. Earlier this week, I had a 45-minute live interview with a popular Kenyan TV host about the benefits of vegetarian diets. The switchboard lit up with calls that spilled into the next show.
Unfortunately, Africa is no exception to the growing number of areas affected by chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. At the request of our Ugandan study partners, Deb and I worked with our research assistant to set up a continuing education program for nurses in rural villages. I spoke for hours about the importance of nutrition and then answered questions on everything from medical management of HIV to peptic ulcer disease. Local residents prepared a healthful and abundant vegan meal that included plantains, beans, greens, cassava, and other locally grown fruits, vegetables, and grains. Our message was welcome, and we received invitations to return and expand our work in this area.
We’re looking forward to our return to the United States, but we’re also looking forward to a return trip to Kenya in September for a pan-Africa conference on animal welfare.