WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it will launch a year-long status review to determine if captive chimpanzees should be protected as endangered.
Both wild and captive chimpanzees have been protected as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1976. Activism by Jane Goodall partly contributed to the agency’s 1990 decision to split listing of the chimpanzee into wild and captive populations, with wild chimpanzees listed as endangered. Because there are no indigenous populations of chimpanzees in the United States, the restrictions have essentially banned importation of wild chimpanzees except for conservation activities like breeding programs.
The Humane Society of the United States and several other conservation and animal welfare groups petitioned the service last year to drop its “split listing” of wild-versus-captive chimpanzees.
“The federal government does not ‘split list’ any other endangered species by wild and captive populations, and it should not have done so in this case,” Humane Society CEO Wayne Pacelle said in a statement lauding the service’s decision. “The current ‘split listing’ allows these highly intelligent and social creatures to be used as living props in silly commercials and stunts, as exotic pets, and as test subjects in invasive animal experimentation, even though most chimps have very little scientific value in these protocols and they cost an enormous amount to keep in laboratories.”
The agency’s action, a 90-day finding, means that there is substantial information to support a change in the status of the captive chimpanzee population. To actually change the listing, the agency will have to find that the “best scientific and commercial data” warrants listing the populations as endangered under the act.
The public has until Oct. 31, 2011, to comment on the agency’s finding before the status review begins.