US grants research chimps endangered species protection

Lab chimp
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Decision gives captive chips same protections as wild one and will prohibit most research on them.

Yes! Yes, yes, yes. In fabulous news for chimps in labs across the country, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that it is categorizing captive chimpanzees as an endangered species subject to legal protections. The new rule will essentially spell the end for chimpanzee research.

While exceptions will be granted for research that is conducted to “benefit the species in the wild” or aid the chimpanzee's propagation or survival, all other invasive research will be nixed.

Proposed in 2013, the rule was designed to tie up a loophole that exempted research chimps from the Endangered Species Act protections that had already been given to wild ones. Under the law, it is illegal to import or export an endangered animal, or to “harm, harass, kill [or] injure” one.

The new rule will not only cover the more than 700 chimpanzees in American research laboratories, but also chimps in zoos and circuses.

Coming as a surprise to exactly no one, some in the science community are not as happy about the new regulation. Arguing that medical research is a boon to both humans and chimps because the two species are affected by many of the same diseases, Matt Bailey, executive vice president of the National Association for Biomedical Research in Washington DC, says, “Practically speaking, [given] the process to get exceptions [for invasive research], I don't expect chimps will be a viable option.” He also says that since research chimps are bred specifically for research that making the connection to wild populations is a stretch. Try telling that to the chimps.

“This is a very exciting day,” Jane Goodall said at the press conference for the announcement. “It’s been a struggle to think of the chimpanzees exploited in medical research.” She has now started called chimps “chimpanzee beings” instead of “animals” and says the decision “shows an awakening, a new consciousness.”

Via Nature

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