Scientists at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta have nurtured a group of these primates for decades. But after Yerkes started the colony, federal officials listed sooties as endangered.
The result: Yerkes has the world's largest collection of captive sooties, but with little hope of scientific benefit.
"We don't need them around just to look at them. We're not a zoo," said Thomas Gordon, Yerkes' associate director for scientific programs.
Recently, Yerkes researchers proposed a novel solution: The primate center will help conserve sooties in the wild in exchange for permission to do AIDS-related research on them here.
It seems like a terrible situation to be in -- you have these primates, they are doing well in your facility, but it's just not your purpose to keep primates without researching on them. How much better it would be to involve them in something useful. Otherwise, you'll ultimately have to get rid of them, and how does that help anything?
And yet, these individuals represent an endangered species.