US Fish And Wildlife Service Looks To Give Chimpanzees Greater Protection
June 12, 2013

US Fish And Wildlife Service Looks To Give Chimpanzees Greater Protection

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

Even though chimpanzees are commonly seen in films, television shows, circuses, and at the zoo — the great apes are considered endangered and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is proposing a new rule that would give greater protection to our fellow primates.

“I was so pleased to hear about the proposed rule,” said renowned primate expert Jane Goodall in response to the FWS proposal. “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.”

“This decision gives me hope that we truly have begun to understand that our attitudes toward treatment of our closest living relatives must change,” she added. “I congratulate the US Fish and Wildlife Service for this very important decision."

The proposed rule would change current classifications that consider wild chimps ℠endangered´ and captive chimps ℠threatened.´ The split classification is the only one in the history of the FWS, and it allows the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fund medical experiments that are performed on captive chimps. The United States is the only country known to perform invasive medical research on these primates.

While animal rights advocates applaud the proposed rule´s potential to reduce testing on chimpanzees, some researchers reacted less enthusiastically.

A statement released by The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) said the organization is “disappointed” in the FWS decision. According to FASEB, if accepted, the new rule “would make biomedical research using chimpanzees difficult and potentially delayed.”

“Chimpanzees are an important model for both ongoing and future research in certain circumstances,” the statement continued. “[We] believe the status change will negatively affect the health of both humans and great apes.”

According to International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), over one million chimps have disappeared from the wild since the start of the 20th century. The IUCN indicates that about 300,000 chimps remain in the wild, but capture of chimps and human development of their habitat is chipping away at those numbers.

The proposed rule is expected to be finalized after being open to public comment for 60 days and comes about one month after the NIH signaled plans to ℠retire´ about 360 government-owned chimps from its research facilities. That move would leave about 50 animals still in the agency´s custody.

In January, an NIH working group told the agency it should end six of the nine invasive chimp studies that it funds. These studies include: searching for an infectious cause for primary biliary cirrhosis and tests on the immune response that causes diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

The proposed FWS rule also would affect the exotic pet trade as buyers and sellers would be restricted from taking the animals across state or federal lines.

“There are breeders who breed them for pets and the entertainment industry .“‰.“‰. dressing them up, and clothes makes people think of them as not endangered,” Kathleen Conlee, a vice president at the Humane Society, told the Washington Post.