ALDF Lauds FWS Proposal to End “Split-listing” of ChimpanzeesPosted by ALDF Guest Bloggers, Neil Abramson, Daniel Saperstein, and Kelly Anne Targett, Proskauer Rose LLP on June 12, 2013
Yesterday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”) announced its proposal to classify captive chimpanzees as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”), reversing nearly forty years of failed policies that only brought chimpanzees closer to extinction. The proposed rule would end the “split-listing” of chimpanzees, which incongruously affords endangered species protections to wild members of the species residing in Africa while simultaneously denying any protection at all to their captive counterparts living in the United States. Among other things, the split-listing has led to cruel and unnecessary biomedical research, as well as the routine exploitation and abuse of the species for entertainment purposes and as pets.
In October 2011, FWS, in response to a petition filed by the Humane Society, the Jane Goodall Institute, and several other organizations, commenced a formal status review of captive chimpanzees under the ESA. ALDF, through its pro bono counsel Proskauer Rose, submitted comments urging FWS to end the split listing and elevate captive chimpanzees to endangered status. We argued that neither the text of the ESA nor its legislative history authorized the split-listing of the members of a species based solely on whether the animals live in captivity or in the wild. We also argued that, even if the split-listing of a species were legal under the ESA, the grounds that had been advanced for split-listing chimpanzees had proved false in practice.
In a welcome turn of events, FWS embraced both of our arguments and announced its proposal to classify all chimpanzees—captive and wild alike—as endangered. Although the proposed rule will be subject to comment and revision before it becomes final, this is a major breakthrough for the pan troglodyte species, and for captive chimpanzees in particular. More broadly, FWS’s concession that the ESA does not permit captive members of a species to be classified differently from wild members promises an end to the harmful practice of split-listing once and for all.