Applause for US Fish and Wildlife's long overdue chimpanzee proposal
Yesterday marked a significant day for our closest living relative—the chimpanzee.
In response to a brilliant 2010 legal petition spearheaded by our friends at HSUS, The Jane Goodall Institute and others, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) issued a proposed rule to list all chimpanzees as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), regardless of whether they are captive or wild.
Needless to say, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) submitted comments in support of this petition and commends the USFWS for its proposal.
At the turn of the last century, it was estimated that there were between one and two million chimpanzees living in the wild, whereas now estimates only range between 172,000 and 300,000 living in increasingly fragmented populations in 21 countries across Africa.
Full protection under the ESA is critical for all chimpanzees. However, since 1990, only chimpanzees living in the wilds of Africa have been considered endangered.
Meanwhile, those in captivity have been considered threatened. This split-listing is not only inconsistent with the purpose and intent of the ESA, but it has also led to widespread, commercial exploitation that greatly undermines efforts to save chimpanzees from extinction.
For far too long and despite the fact that these highly intelligent animals are in critical danger of becoming extinct, captive chimpanzees in the U.S. have been exploited for commercial, recreational, and scientific purposes.
Not only does this exploitation send a message to the public that having chimps for commercial or private entertainment is an acceptable practice (in our 2011 comments, we pointed to studies demonstrating that the reason why many people erroneously believe that chimpanzees are not endangered is due in part to their frequent portrayal in entertainment), but it also fuels a demand for “pet” chimpanzees, fueling incentives for poachers and wildlife traffickers.
All chimpanzees, captive and wild, are entitled to protections warranted an endangered species. From now until August 12, the USFWS is accepting public comment on its proposal.
PS: This proposed rule follows another decision against split-listing, thereby affording greater protections for endangered species living in captivity.
Just last week, USFWS denied petitions submitted by the Exotic Wildlife Association and Safari Club International that asked the agency to remove the captive populations of three endangered antelope species from the endangered species list.