We received some great news this morning. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced that they are evaluating a petition to list chimpanzees living in the U.S. as an endangered species. Should this classification be changed, the treatment of pet, entertainment and laboratory chimpanzees would be analyzed through a conservation science lens.
“Chimpanzees are the only species that are endangered in the wild, but not recognized as endangered in the U.S.,” explained Steve Ross, Ph.D., assistant director of the Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes at Lincoln Park Zoo. “Providing captive chimpanzees with the protections that come with endangered status is an important step to curtailing private ownership of this species and the exploitation by the media-entertainment industry.”
Steve, who has shepherded this petition throughout the legislative process, is passionate about the welfare of chimpanzees, particularly those housed in sub-standard conditions at non-accredited facilities around the nation. I am part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums team that has pushed for this petition. Today’s announcement by the USFWS is a success for all of us in the AZA and Lincoln Park Zoo communities who are working to educate the public on the plight of many of our primate cousins.
If the USFWS decides to classify chimpanzees as endangered, they will be provided the same protections afforded other endangered species, which will minimize exploitation for commercial profit and could serve to benefit the long-term survival and conservation of the species.
This status-review process could take up to 12 months before a final decision is made. So we will wait and we will watch and we will continue to work toward a better future for chimpanzees. As always, I’ll keep you posted.