As an undergraduate entering the field of anthropology (specifically primatology) I knew that I would need field experience to continue my education and future in this career. I began with a field school and had an amazing experience. However, I left feeling unsure if that was exactly what I wanted to do in my life. The other option I was considering was rehabilitation.
I settled on an in-between: a rehab facility (due to lack of anonymity they will remain unnamed) that was also conducting research. The experience with the wild primates was undeniably remarkable. However, the location was not properly trained or experienced in dealing with these rescued/rehabbed primates (or other animals). It was poorly managed to the point of concern for the safety of both the animals and the students (of which this was usually their first experience in the field). There were other deep concerns, but the bottom line is that they could not separate the “business” aspect (which ruled every decision they made) from the well-being of the animals or the students who were trying to learn.
While I felt that their approach was not “intentionally bad”, I could not stand by their money-driven “business”, absence of management, and lack of safety protocol. I struggled with a decision to leave as I did not want to leave the people I had worked along side, the primates who I had been caring for, or even the forest/field itself. However, my final decision to leave early was founded on morals.
I have decided that since students are faced with the necessity to attend field schools to gain experience (though they also want to be there), they should know that their money, time, and participation is going to a good cause, and that they are being trained and educated properly. For many students it is their first introduction into the field which will certainly set the stage for how they perceive field schools and the field of anthropology as a whole. My hopes are also that with reduced support, unjust “businesses”, and their owners, will begin to be phased out. Appropriate conservation and fieldwork should be a priority for those involved in this field and they should be held accountable. I hope that this review system can aid in this process.
The wide range of issues that are faced by some in the field (and usually not discussed) need to be acknowledged so that we can work towards amelioration. I can only hope that with an anonymous review that touches on key topics, while also maintaining professionalism, it will in some way aid in finding solutions to key problems faced in the field.