Created by on 10/06/2011

On September 1, 2011, the United States (U.S.) Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced a 90-day finding (regulatory review process) on a petition to list all chimpanzees as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Currently, wild chimpanzees are designated as endangered and captive chimpanzees in the U.S. are listed as threatened. The petition, authored by the Humane Society of the United States, the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums, the Jane Goodall Institute, and five other organizations, argued that the lack of regulation of captive chimpanzees in the U.S. negatively affects wild populations of the species by fueling illegal trafficking and undermining conservation efforts. 
Following the release of the 90-day finding, FASEB representatives met with FWS officials to discuss the potential implications the status change would have on their use in biomedical research. According to FWS, changing the status of captive chimpanzees to endangered would all but eliminate their use in important biomedical research due to the “take” provision of the act. “Take” in the ESA is defined as harassing, harming, pursuing, hunting, shooting, wounding, killing, trapping, capturing, or collecting the organism in question, or attempting to engage in any such conduct. Research benefitting the conservation efforts of the wild chimpanzee population would likely be allowed pending permit approval. FWS officials also noted that listing captive chimpanzees as endangered would not prevent the commercial usage of chimpanzees in the entertainment business, which was one of the primary arguments in the petition, since their usage does not violate the “take” provision within the law or the interstate commerce clause.
FWS is requesting input from the scientific community to ensure that the status review of the chimpanzee is complete and based on the best available scientific and commercial information. Although statements are due by October 31, 2011, FASEB requested that the comment period be extended so that sufficient time is available to provide meaningful feedback. Following the comment period, FWS will undertake a 12-month review to assess the chimpanzee’s biological status and threats and to determine whether the species warrants an endangered listing. If FWS concludes that captive chimpanzees should be listed as endangered, the public will have one more opportunity to offer recommendations before the final determination is made one year later. FASEB will work with the Animals in Research and Education subcommittee of its Science Policy Committee to provide comments to FWS throughout this process.