For decades, chimpanzees have been found in local zoos, traveling circuses, and on dozens of TV shows and movies. They've also been experimented on in medical labs, and have struggled to survive in the wild. Now, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is looking to rein in the lives of chimpanzees with a proposal to get the animals on the federal endangered species list.
Currently, chimpanzees in the wild are listed as endangered and chimpanzees in captivity are listed simply as threatened. The differentiation between chimps in and out of their natural habitat allows for captive chimps to be bred, sold, shipped, and used for scientific testing in the US. Dan Ashe, the director of Fish and Wildlife, told The Washington Post that the current split listing for chimps has led to a public misunderstanding of what the species is going through, particularly with chimps being used in the entertainment industry. "The most important thing about this is it brings attention to the plight of chimpanzees in the wild," Ashe told The Post. "It’s an opportunity to talk to the public about the nature of the threat to chimps." The Humane Society, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the Jane Goodall Institute have also requested the agency push for such a change, the report said.
With the proposal in place, the Fish and Wildlife service is taking public comment for the next 60 days to hear any objections or concerns. If chimpanzees do get a full endangered listing, scientific testing on chimps without a medical research permit would be outlawed, and research permits would only be given out if the testing is somehow contributing to the preservation of the species, the agency said. This could have massive repercussions for scientific research in the US. As The Post noted, the US is one of the few developed nations that still regularly uses chimps in medical research. Permits would also be required to transport chimps across state lines, and in or out of the US.