Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tell FWS to protect U.S. captive chimpanzees!

On August 31, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that they were initiating a status review to determine whether they should reclassify all captive chimpanzees from threatened to endangered, under the Endangered Species Act. Giving captive chimpanzees the same status as their wild cousins will get them out of research laboratories and into sanctuaries.
Hundreds of people submitted comments, but I didn’t. I am not an expert on chimpanzees, after all. I am only a chimp trainer’s daughter. But I changed my mind. I have the same right as anyone to state my views on the issue. Tonight I submitted my comments:  It is time for a consistent endangered species designation for chimpanzees. [Note, I have linked to an updated document that adds a clarification on the 1950s chimpanzee facility and replaces a photo on page 17.]

My father with the Detroit Zoo chimpanzees
My connections with the chimpanzees at the Detroit Zoo, from my birth in 1952 to 1964 (when the zoo fired dad for throwing a chimpanzee against the wall), were a source of awe and wonder. My father, Arthur H. Brown, Jr., killed himself in 1967, but I believe that if he were alive today he would be writing these words:

Chimpanzees, whether captive or wild, deserve our respect and protection. Their habitat – forest, exhibit, laboratory, Hollywood compound, or sanctuary – does not alter the fact that all chimpanzees are endangered.
The comments I submitted tonight are a look back at the Detroit Zoo chimpanzee program, with all of its implications. Some may ask why we need to rehash the past when deciding the way forward. I think it is important to know the context for the some of the public’s attitudes about chimpanzees, and I hope some history can help inform today’s decision makers ‒ many of whom never experienced the chimp shows of an earlier era.
Even before the FWS started their review, the National Institutes of Health asked the Institute of Medicine to conduct an “in-depth analysis to reassess the scientific need for the continued use of chimpanzees to accelerate biomedical discoveries.” We expect IOM’s analysis shortly, but, given NIH’s long record of promoting the use of primates in research, I am not optimistic that they will recommend an immediate end to research with chimpanzees.
Given the Department of Interior’s long record of protecting endangered species, however, I am very hopeful that the Fish and Wildlife Service will finally correct what was a horrid mistake in the past designation of chimpanzee status. The agency can eliminate the double standard and grant captive chimpanzees the same status and protections that we give chimpanzees in the wild.
FWS is the best hope for giving chimpanzees the respect and protection they deserve. FWS can help the country overcome its legacy of zoo chimp shows and other mistakes.
Join me, and the hundreds of others who are making their views known. Tell FWS to protect U.S. captive chimpanzees! To submit comments on FWS-R9-ES-2010-0086, go to this comment form.
My original post on the FWS rule is "Obama Administration asks: Should we continue double standards giving U.S. captive chimps less protection."

Here is the original document I submitted on the Fish and Wildlife Service chimpanzee status rule.

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