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Director's Corner

Dan Ashe served as FWS Director from June 2011 until January 2017. The following is an archive of blogs authored by Director Ashe during that time. This content is intended for historical reference only and not as a representation of current Service policy or opinion.

Conserving 'All' Chimpanzees

We are proposing today to give all chimpanzees the full protections of the Endangered Species Act, or ESA.

Chimpanzees by Chi King, Flickr

Threats batter chimpanzees as habitat loss, poaching and disease continue. A growing human population across the 22 countries of Equatorial Africa is also taking its toll. As humans demand more, chimpanzees get less -- Less land, less water, less food, less everything.

More information on protecting chimpanzees

Conservation heroes like British primatologist Jane Goodall have dedicated their lives to understand chimpanzees in the wild and raise worldwide awareness about their plight.  We stand with Dr. Goodall and others today in the hope that this proposal will ignite renewed public interest in the status of chimpanzees in the wild.

We have also been helping chimpanzees for years. Our Great Ape Conservation Fund has been steadily promoting their conservation.

Since 2001, we have awarded 137 grants from the Great Ape Conservation Fund totaling $8.6 million, matched by $10.3 million, to support conservation efforts to protect chimpanzees.

We work with conservation groups like the Wildlife Conservation Society and Wild Chimpanzee Foundation-Africa. We also partner with local leadership and support projects in in 19 countries, in Cameroon in the Ebo Forest, for instance, or in Rwanda in the Nyungwe National Park.

The threats have only gotten worse since we initially added wild chimpanzees to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife as threatened in 1976.

In 1990, we gave wild chimpanzees the full protections of the Endangered Species Act, and it is clear to our scientists that chimpanzees continue to meet the definition of endangered.

But in those initial rulings, we separated out captive chimpanzees in the United States. We wanted to encourage breeding of chimps, thus providing additional animals and reducing the incentive to remove animals from the wild.

So we said live chimpanzees held in captivity in the United States were not subject to the prohibitions that applied to wild chimpanzees. In other words trade, sale, import and export, and take of captive chimpanzees were allowed.

We recently took another look at those decisions and found that the ESA does not allow for captive?held animals to be assigned separate legal status from their wild counterparts on the basis of their captive state.

That’s why today we are proposing to list all chimpanzees as one entity as endangered. If this rule is finalized as proposed, the ESA’s full protections would be extended to the captive chimpanzees in the United States as well as their wild cousins.

This would not end private ownership of chimpanzees or chimpanzee sales.

But under the ESA, you would now need permits for certain activities involving both wild and captive-raised chimpanzees. For example, any sale across state lines would now require a permit. You would also need a permit to import or export a captive chimpanzee or any of its parts.

Biomedical testing that could harm a chimpanzee, or anything that could hurt, harass, kill, what the ESA calls take, would also require a permit.

The chimpanzee is said to share 98 percent of our genes. It is in our nature to protect and conserve this iconic species, and this proposal will help.

Bravo! This is an important, much-needed proposal to protect our evolutionary cousins. Please see this through to promulgation, and keep up the great work. Can we do this for the other great apes too?
# Posted By Tim B. | 6/18/13 1:56 PM

Action on placing chimpanzees on the endangered list is long overdue. In fact, they should never have been subjected to the cruelties they were forced to endure. It is an ongoing source of shame for human animals to treat our cousins so badly. Next step (not through FWS) is to save their habitat in the wild.
# Posted By Ingrid | 6/23/13 2:24 PM

Bravo! Huzzah! I've waited decades for this action. May and and your colleagues succeed.
# Posted By Jacqueline Read | 6/26/13 7:33 PM

Hallelujah! This has been tooooo long in coming.

Salute! to Director Ashe and FWS for setting the bar high and doing the right thing for chimpanzees.

Jean Barnes, Atlanta
# Posted By Jean Barnes | 7/10/13 1:30 PM

Thankyou so very much for this proposal, and compassion for the chimpanzees. Bravo is right!!
# Posted By elise allen | 6/16/14 9:44 AM

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