On April 21, 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) approved a permit allowing the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, at Emory University, to relocate eight of its chimpanzees to Wingham Wildlife Park, an unaccredited zoo in the U.K., as soon as May 2. The public comment period on this transfer, which originally closed in November, was extended until February 22, 2016, as a result of a lawsuit attempting to halt the transfer. However, even after the receipt of hundreds of additional comments—mostly opposing the transfer—the FWS gave its final approval to the requested permit.
An amended lawsuit was subsequently filed on April 25 by the New England Anti-Vivisection Society and a coalition of sanctuaries and chimpanzee experts, asking a federal district court to declare that the FWS’s decision to issue the export permit to Yerkes violates the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. The lawsuit asks the court to set aside the FWS decision and stop any transfer of the eight chimpanzees. The filing of the lawsuit should act as a temporary measure to halt the transfer until the court considers the claims presented by the coalition bringing the suit.
Five licensed, accredited and experienced chimpanzee sanctuaries in the U.S. have offered to accept these chimpanzees from Yerkes, and to provide them with lifetime care without being subjected to experimentation or exhibition. Yerkes has rejected these offers in favor of transporting these chimpanzees to the UK.
The decision now rests with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. NAVS will continue to monitor this situation and provide updates regarding the historic lawsuit and any opportunities for advocacy action to help prevent the export of the “Yerkes Eight” to the UK.