In a move that will ensure protection from cruel lab experiments and some captive situations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has given chimpanzees endangered species status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The rule went into effect earlier this week.
The U.S. was the only developed nation not to have rules in place to protect chimpanzees, and many were still being used as laboratory test animals “subjected to painful procedures and denied the most basic semblance of a normal life,” reports The Dodo. “Now, many, if not all of these animals will be sent into retirement at sanctuaries.”
The move protects both wild and captive chimpanzees—captive chimpanzees had formerly been listed only as threatened. “The decision responds to growing threats to the species and aligns the chimpanzee’s status with existing legal requirements,” the Fish and Wildlife Service explained on its website. Under the ruling, it is illegal to harm, harass, kill, or cause injury to any animal on the Endangered Species List.
Chimpanzees are found in more than 20 African countries, and according to the Fish and Wildlife Service, “Threats to the chimpanzee, including habitat loss, poaching, and disease, have intensified and expanded since wild populations were listed as endangered in 1990.”
The Service also points to expanding human population and the competition for natural resources that growth places on chimpanzees in the wild.
Under the endangered status, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will require permits for a number of activities relating to chimpanzees, including importing and exporting the animals in and out of the U.S. Permits will only be issued for scientific purposes that benefit the animals, such as assistance with breeding, habitat restoration, or research on the animals in the wild.
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Chimpanzee image via Shutterstock