The United States Fish and Wildlife Service announced a proposal today that would designate all chimpanzees as an endangered species.
Currently, chimps in the wild are classified as endangered but those in captivity are not classified as such. The Washington Post reports that the change could affect chimps that are used in medical research and are used as pets.
The Post adds:
"Chimpanzees in the wild were listed as endangered 13 years ago, but those in captivity were listed as threatened, largely to allow the trade and use in medical experiments to continue. It is the agency's only 'split listing' for any endangered or threatened species, said Dan Ashe, the agency's director.
"Ashe said the split listing that allowed the commercial trade and use of chimpanzees in areas such as entertainment confused the general public into thinking that the animals are not threatened, when in reality they are struggling to survive. Human encroachment on their habitat and the hunting of apes for a delicacy called bushmeat has threatened them with extinction."
In a press release, the Wildlife Service said this decision was prompted by a legal petition it received by the Jane Goodall Institute in 2010, which triggered a review of the listing under the Endangered Species Act.
"This decision gives me hope that we truly have begun to understand that our attitudes toward treatment of our closest living relatives must change. I congratulate the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for this very important decision," Goodall said a statement.
This proposal comes months after a decision by the National Institutes of Health to retire 110 chimps from biomedical research.