If a recent proposal is finalized, captive chimpanzees will be given an extra layer of protection - the same afforded to their wild counterparts.
As of right now, only wild chimpanzees are considered an "endangered" species. Captive chimps, on the other hand, are simply listed as "threatened." A new proposal from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service looks to change that.
Under the proposal, all chimpanzees would be given the "endangered" tag.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) says that the move was made to "reflect growing threats to the species." Deforestation, poaching, capture for trading, and disease are all growing threats to wild chimpanzees. But it's not simply these threats that moved the FWS to make this proposal.
"The rule proposed today would correct this inconsistency after the Service determined that the Endangered Species Act does not allow for captive-held animals to be assigned a separate legal status from their wild counterparts," says the FWS.
The proposal actually sprung out of a 2010 petition from a handful of concerned organizations - one of which being the Jane Goodall Institute.
“I was so pleased to hear about the proposed rule. This is exceptional news for all chimpanzees and for all the petitioners, especially the Humane Society of the United States, who have worked so hard on this issue,” said Dr. Jane Goodall. “This decision gives me hope that we truly have begun to understand that our attitudes toward treatment of our closest living relatives must change. I congratulate the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for this very important decision."
The proposal entered a public comment period today, and will stay open for 60 days.
"Chimpanzees are in trouble, in the wild and in captivity, and this elevation in their protected status is a critical tool in saving them and in assuring that our children grow up in a world where chimps still live in their native habitats," said Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.
Here's the crux of what would change under the new protection:
If this proposal is finalized, certain activities would require a permit, including import and export of chimpanzees into and out of the United States, “take” (defined by the ESA as harm, harass, kill, injure, etc.) within the United States, and interstate and foreign commerce. Permits would be issued only for scientific purposes or to enhance the propagation or survival of the affected species, including habitat restoration and research on chimpanzees in the wild that contributes to improved management and recovery.
“The International Fund for Animal Welfare strongly supports protecting captive chimpanzees under the Endangered Species Act. The current split-listing is not only inconsistent with the purpose and intent of the Act, but it has also led to widespread commercial exploitation that greatly undermines efforts to save our closest living relatives from extinction. All chimpanzees, captive and wild, are entitled to protections warranted an endangered species. We commend the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for re-examining the split-listing," said North American regional director Jeff Flocken.