All Captive US Chimpanzees Receive Same 'Endangered' Protection Status with Wild Chimps

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Jun 14, 2015 04:06 PM EDT

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 31: In this handout photo provided by Taronga Zoo, a chimpanzee enjoys an Easter treat at Taronga Zoo on March 31, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. Taronga's Chimpanzee group got some colourful Easter challenges this week when they cracked 30 paper mache eggs carefully placed in the exhibit by keepers. Instead of chocolate, the eggs were filled with a special treat of popcorn, sultanas and pellets and then were hidden as much as possible in logs or positioned high up in the exhibit. (Photo : Paul Fahy/Taronga Zoo via Getty Images)

Captive chimpanzees in the US will be given the same protection as their wild counterparts, according to federal wildlife officials.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced that captive chimps are now considered "endangered" and protected under the Endangered Species Act, the same law that protects wild chimps. The rule will take effect on Sept. 14 this year after it gets posted in the Federal Register on Tuesday.

According to NBC News, the new rule discourages the exploitation of captive chimps for pets, entertainment, and medical research.

Dan Ashe, the USFWS director told the Guardian that the agency's "well-intentioned decision" of classifying captive chimps as "threatened" was erroneous. He said that its previous status "expanded a culture and attitude of treating these animals as commodities."

For research or sale of chimps, permits from USFWS may soon be required through the ordinance.

"Permits will be issued for these activities only for scientific purposes to benefit wild chimpanzees or to enhance the propagation or survival of chimpanzees, including habitat restoration and research on chimpanzees in the wild that contributes to improved management and recovery," the Wildlife Service said on its website.

Chimpanzee advocates, including Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), petitioned to include captive chimps under the protection of "endangered" animals in 2010. Founder Dr Jane Goodall congratulated the wildlife federal agency on their decision.

"All at the Jane Goodall Institute wish to congratulate the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the decision to include captive chimpanzee in the endangered listing along with wild chimpanzees," Dr Jane Goodall, founder of JGI and UN Messenger of Peace said via the USFWS website.

"This will be enormously beneficial to individuals in inappropriate captive conditions. As such it is a tremendously significant decision which will be welcomed by everyone concerned with the well-being of our closest living relatives. Thank you for helping to make their world a better place," Dr Goodall added.

However, some have opposing views about the new rule. Susan Larson from New York's Stony Brook University has worked with chimpanzees for many years and she said the new regulation adds another blockade in animal studies.

"We already have to apply for grants, get institutional approval, and be subject to regular inspections," she told Science. "This is going to make it increasingly difficult to get these projects off the ground."

However, this may not be the case according to David Johnson, vice president of Cascades Biosciences Consultants Inc. Johnson, who said that chimps are no longer necessary for biomedical research and still believes that other chimp studies will continue despite this law.

"This research will require some further justification, but I'm supportive of Fish and Wildlife's decision," he said. "I think it's the right thing to do."

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