Progress for Chimps

In the past, AAVS has asked supporters to urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to list all chimpanzees, both wild and captive, as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). After examination of this issue, FWS announced its "finding that listing all chimpanzees as endangered is warranted," and published a public notice, giving citizens opportunity to comment on its proposal. The FWS is reviewing these comments and a final decision is expected by the end of this year.

The Endangered Species Act was created to protect ecosystems and animals at risk of extinction by restricting their trade and use, and chimpanzees in the wild were listed as endangered in 1990, while captive chimps were listed as only threatened. This controversial 'split-listing' of chimpanzees allowed essentially unlimited use and exploitation of captive chimpanzees in entertainment and research.

Through the 1980s and 1990s, the biomedical research community believed that chimpanzees were important models of human disease, particularly for HIV/AIDS. However, chimps were also widely considered in danger of possible extinction, so FWS implemented the split-listing. Dan Ashe, Director of FWS, wrote in a recent blog that, at the time, the agency wanted to "encourage breeding of chimps," so they would not be taken from the wild and burden wild chimp populations. Nonetheless, according to current FWS information, wild chimpanzee populations continue to be vulnerable today, and, after only one chimp has been documented as contracting AIDS in the laboratory, they are no longer considered a feasible model for HIV/AIDS.

Additionally, the Institute of Medicine released a 2011 report about research conducted on chimps, stating that "most current use of chimpanzees is unnecessary." Earlier this year, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Council of Councils approved recommendations calling for the retirement of federally supported chimpanzees. While the agency still needs to formally adopt the recommendations, it is believed that over 350 NIH-owned chimps will soon be slated for permanent retirement from research.

Hundreds of privately owned chimpanzees are not affected by this NIH policy. However, the FWS proposal covers all chimps, regardless of whether their use in research is publicly or privately funded. Implementation of FWS's proposal strengthen our efforts to end the use of chimpanzees in research!

If the proposal calling for both wild and captive chimps to be listed as endangered is enacted, it would be illegal to purchase, sell, and traffic chimpanzees into and out of the U.S., as well as across state borders. A permit allowing for an exemption from the ESA may be given, but only under special circumstances.

AAVS will be sure to keep our supporters up-to-date on this important issue!


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