In 1990, the United States’ government added wild chimpanzees to the list of endangered species. But on June 12th, 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared that captive chimpanzees were endangered too! This recent declaration definitely warrants a double take. The government apparently claimed that captive chimpanzees were not endangered so they could be used for medical research. For 25 years, the government has been making illegal claims regarding the classification of chimpanzees… I can’t believe this has been going on for so long!
This reclassification of chimpanzees is the result of a petition from the Humane Society and the Jane Goodall Institute. They asked the U.S. to list captive chimps as endangered for two large reasons:
1) This is the only species of animal that has a “split listing,” with part of the species endangered and other part not.
2) By classifying captive chimps as endangered, they can no longer be subjected to medical testing.
The fact that all chimps are now officially endangered is a good thing because they will receive more protections from the U.S. government. This endangered status protects chimps who are kept in labs, as pets, and as performers too. According to Jennifer Ball of the HSUS, “[Chimps’] use in these industries is not only not helping to preserve the species in the wild, it’s hurting.”
The U.S. Endangered Species Act does not allow the government to differentiate a species based on their captivity and their existence in the wild. The fact that it took so long for this change to happen is honestly baffling. That’s why we have amazing people like Jane Goodall who are advocating for these important changes to be executed. And now that this reclassification has happened, we can expect many chimps to be retired from their years of labor. There are many chimpanzee shelters across the world that are eager to take in these chimps.
Among these shelters is the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Uganda. Sanctuary caretakers provide fruit, vegetables, and other suitable foods, as well as veterinary care. This beautiful island also provides excellent habitat for other species, including fruit bats, majestic fish eagles, otters, and monitor lizards. And this shelter needs your help!
Through their newly acquired “endangered” status, chimpanzees will start getting released from captivity. But they can’t just be released back into the wild; they have to be transitioned into it. As seen in the video (0:50), many chimps have grown accustomed to the bars and cages that have been containing them, some chimps having been in captivity for decades!
By making captive chimps endangered, we are further protecting them. But we can’t let them down now. We can’t change the conditions of their life and then force them back into the wild. The victory of obtaining their new endangered status is only half the battle. The other half is integrating them back into the wild where their species can flourish. And we can’t let them down now.Whizzco