The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) today announced a proposed rule to classify both wild and captive chimpanzees as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Currently, only wild chimpanzees are listed as endangered, while captive chimpanzees are listed as threatened. This allows for chimps to be commercially exploited, used in laboratories, sold and traded as pets, and used in entertainment.
Listing all chimps as endangered will better provide for their conservation under the ESA, and it will facilitate greater public awareness of the growing threats to the species, including habitat loss, poaching, and disease. The rule would also correct the legal inconsistency of having captive animals of the same species assigned a separate protected status compared to their wild counterparts.
“We are delighted that USFWS has chosen to recognize that captive chimpanzees are entitled to the same protections afforded their wild kin,” said Cathy Liss, president of AWI. “Hopefully, this move will bring an end to some of the more egregious forms of exploitation these animals face in captivity.”
In 2011, USFWS initiated a status review of the split-listing of chimpanzees to determine if there is sufficient scientific and legal evidence to reclassify captive chimpanzees as endangered. At that time, AWI submitted comments to USFWS in favor of the reclassification.