U.S. Fish & Wildlife Proposes Listing All Chimpanzees as "Endangered"
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to give Endangered Species Act protection to all chimpanzees!
In a welcome development, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has issued a proposed rule to change the status of chimpanzees in captivity in the United States from “threatened” to “endangered” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). The proposed rule was issued after the agency received a legal petition from a coalition of animal advocates and conservation groups asking that the current split listing of chimpanzees be changed, as the ESA does not support a separate listing of a species based on where they live, and because chimpanzees in the wild are certainly endangered. This proposed rule would remedy the current law to include all chimpanzees under that listing, offering new protections for captive chimpanzees who now live in dire situations around the country.
If captive chimpanzees are given "endangered" status, they will receive extra protection regarding their import and export, sale, as well as their “taking,” which refers to the harming or killing of chimpanzees. Federal permits would be required for chimpanzee use and would be issued only for scientific purposes or to enhance the propagation or survival of the affected species. Those purposes would include habitat restoration and research on chimpanzees in the wild that contributes to improved management and recovery. The change in status would not affect the private ownership of chimpanzees, unless there is a transfer of ownership to an individual in another state. It is unclear to what extent certain uses of animals will permitted under this provision, including use in circuses, for entertainment, and in roadside zoos.
Importantly, under these provisions, the use of chimpanzees in biomedical testing would require a permit (if they involve any harm to the animal). According to FWS, the Service intends to work closely with the National Institutes of Health on their decision regarding the future use of chimpanzees as recommended by the Institute of Medicine and the NIH Working Group.
The proposed rule will be subject to public comment until August 12, 2013. A final decision on the matter is expected next year.
How did we get to this point?
Timeline of Events
1975- Chimpanzees are listed as an Appendix I species in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which recognizes that the species faces extinction.
1976- The U.S. Endangered Species Act lists chimpanzees as “threatened,” and created a “special” category for captive chimpanzees in the U.S., exempting them from all of the protections of the ESA, which allows them to be used for commercial purposes in research, entertainment and sold as pets.
1990- FWS upgraded the status of chimpanzees in the wild to “endangered.”
2010- Advocacy groups* file a petition asking the FWS to reconsider the split listing of chimpanzees to include them all in the listing as an “endangered” species.
2013- FWS considered the petition and has now issued a proposed rule that would make the requested change.
TODAY- What you can do:
Contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expressing your support for the proposed “endangered species” listing for all chimpanzees, while urging the FWS to include more specific guidelines on permissible use and the necessity of obtaining a permit by individuals exploiting chimpanzees in interstate commerce.
*This effort was initiated by the Humane Society of the United States, the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums (AZA), the Jane Goodall Institute, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance, the Fund for Animals, Humane Society International, and the New England Anti-Vivisection Society.