According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, all chimpanzees will become endangered species once the newest version of the Endangered Species Act is released.
Previously, there was a distinction made between chimpanzees from the wild, that have been declared endangered back in 1990, and chimpanzees in captivity that were considered a threatened species.
Initially, chimpanzees were brought to captivity to be studied and so as to improve breeding rates. However, along the years, the captive chimps have become the subjects of a multitude of scientific research studies. They were considered particularly important for the research conducted on AIDS/HIV.
Many other chimps were used in the entertainment businesses, particularly in circuses, which gave way to a popular trend among wealthy eccentric people, that involved having a chimpanzee as a pet.
Naturally, these situations did not have a happy ending for some the owners, who often realized they were incapable of controlling the animals. They ended up suffering serious injuries when they were attacked by the chimps. These situations ended up even worse for the chimps, because there was nobody there to ensure that all of them get to proper shelters.
As for the chimpanzees that were used for scientific research, their situation grim as well. They have been frequently mistreated in the laboratories. But even those chimps who were treated with kindness had to retire at some point, and the shelters that could house animals their size were proven to be to few.
Even the famous chimpanzee Nim, whose story was told in the documentary film “Project Nim”, had to go through many hardships before being provided with a proper home after his contribution in the scientific research world ended.
This is why, numerous animal welfare organizations and the world renowned primatologist Jane Goodall have been fighting for years to ensure a spot on the Endangered Species list for the captive chimpanzees. And it seems that now they have finally succeeded.
On June 16 the latest version of the US Endangered Species Act becomes official and after its grace period, that is set to last 90 days, it will fully go into effect.
The main changes that this will bring to the captive chimpanzees in the US will be the limitation of the experiments that they can be included in and the import and export of the animals in and out of the US.
The new act will require that all scientist to “demonstrate that their research would be directly and substantially supporting the conservation of chimpanzees in the wild,” before being able to conduct experiments on them.
All experiments that might harm the chimps will require extensive demonstration of their purpose, so that they may receive permits. Donations to the chimpanzee sanctuaries will also be considered in the issuing process of the permit. Hopefully, these donations may ensure that more chimpanzee conservation facilities be developed, so that they may house the retired chimps.
In the 1990’s, there were about 1 million chimps worldwide. However, at the moment their numbers have plummeted dramatically to 300,000 to 400,000 wild chimpanzees in Africa, according to the official data of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Also, there are 2000 captive chimps in the US, 730 of which are owned by laboratories.
This act is a major breakthrough for the animal welfare community and for all the chimpanzees in captivity that will hopefully be provided with a better life henceforth.
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