In a significant development that could drastically impact scientific research on captive chimpanzees, the US Fish and Wildlife Service recently extended protection under the endangered species status to captive chimpanzees in addition to wild ones. Here's what the agency's decision entails:
Research on chimps significantly curtailed
The move essentially bars any research on captive chimpanzees that doesn't benefit the propagation or survival of their species. This will also ban the sale of biological samples from chimpanzees across state lines without permit.
Closes loopholes in rules that exempted captive chimps from protection
The agency's amendment to previously existing regulations effectively ties off loopholes that enabled scientific groups as well as circuses and other entertainment groups to circumvent protective laws in the case of captive chimps.
Gives hope for further progress toward fair rights
This development comes close on the back of an equally, if not more significant, legal tussle over whether apes such as chimpanzees and gorillas should be accorded legal personhood, allowing them greatly improved legal representation. Advocates for the rights of non-human beings will be greatly encouraged by these events, and the momentum may well give the movement the thrust it needs.
Although this might prove to be a blow for scientific research, there can be no doubt that this move is ethically sound, and much welcome in the face of gathering outrage over the treatment of captive animals. In any case, it's a brighter future now for one of our closest cousins.