According to an announcement made by the US Fish and Wildlife Service on Friday, America will be designating all chimpanzees as endangered. This shift follows a 2010 petition filed by UN Messenger of Peace Jane Goodall.
Goodall filed the petition along with the HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) and some other groups for eliminating an old distinction between legal status wild chimpanzees and their captive counterparts. For those who don’t know: for decades, the captive chimpanzees have been listed as “threatened” while the wild ones have been considered to be “endangered”.
The announcement by the FWS suggests that now even the captive chimpanzees in the country will be receiving similar protections as the wild ones. Following this change, interstate export, import and trade and biomedical research of captive chimps will be possible only after getting permission from the FWS. The new regulations will be made official on June 16, 2015 and will go into effect on September 14, after a grace period of 90 days.
The new rules will not require individuals who own chimps privately to get a permit for the same; also, there will also be no need of obtaining permits for using the animals in the entertainment industry.
Dan Ashe, FWS’ director, said that tagging the captivated chimps as “threatened” and the wild ones as “endangered” sent a wrong signal to people; this distinction made them believe that chimps were not badly in need of help.
Ashe informed that when making the distinction official it was thought that it was essential to promote breeding of captive chimpanzees for expanding their numbers. However, later it was found that the distinction ended up expanding a culture of using these creatures as commodities for import, export, sale, entertainment and research. According to the FWS director, eventually the conservation process planned for the chimps got disrupted due to their continuous use as commodities.
Ashe believes that the new rules will be preventing the unreasonable use of chimps in biomedical research. Right now, as many as 730 chimpanzees are captivated in biomedical laboratories.
The number of chimps was around a million during the early 1900s. However, since then factors like poaching and extensive habitat loss resulted in significant decline in their population. At this moment, the global population of these animals is estimated to range between 172,000 and 300,000.