The United States’ Fish and Wildlife service has offered new designations on Friday under which all US chimpanzees will be classified as endangered under Endangered Species Act, a status which was previously conferred just for wild chimpanzees and not captive ones.
The new ruling is important as now any type of chimpanzee cannot be used in research, traded, exported between states or outside of the country without a special permit offered by the governmental agency, starting with the 1st of September.
The move is mostly direct against animal testing and research on chimpanzees, which will now be thoroughly regulated and restricted. Prior to this ruling, captured chimpanzees were considered just threatened while their wild counterparts were labeled as endangered; leaving the door open for the former to be used in a variety of biomedical and cosmetics-related testing.
This new ruling will not be retroactive, so people who already own chimpanzees privately are not required to apply for a permit to keep them; however they will necessitate one should they want to sell them or move them between states. Also, the use of chimpanzees in the entertainment industry will not require a permit as long as it sticks within the confines of the regulation.
US Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe has explained that the ruling is meant the correct the previous distinction, which was enacted as a way to encourage breeding of captive and privately owned chimpanzees, but ended up in making them a commodity for test and research, commerce and entertainment, which has had a negative effect on their conservation in the wild.
The number of chimpanzees worldwide has decreased at an alarming rate during the last century, with their number being now somewhere between 170,000 and 300,000 down from an estimated one million at the start of the 20th century. Main causes for this rapid decrease are habitat destruction due to human-related activities and poaching or capturing them for private use. Chimpcare.org states that there are over 700 chimpanzees currently held in test laboratories; any kind of potentially harassing or harmful research on them is going to require a permit from the FWS.
Such a permit might be obtained in these circumstances only if researchers can prove that the research will be beneficial towards the conservation of wild chimpanzees according to Mr. Ashe, but he also listed donating to chimpanzee conservation organizations as an example of good will.
Image Source: NPR