Full Title Name:  Detailed Discussion Chimpanzee Laws in the United States and Abroad

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Alicia S Ivory Place of Publication:  Michigan State University College of Law Publish Year:  2007 Primary Citation:  Animal Legal and Historical Center 1 Country of Origin:  United States

This article summarizes the international and American laws affecting chimpanzees. Each law is described, and the ways in which each law works well and works poorly are discussed. Generally, all laws affecting chimpanzees as they are currently written, do not adequately protect the species from the most salient threats to its survival.

I . Introduction

            The chimpanzee has been part of American pop culture for decades.   Both live animals and fictional chimpanzee characters are familiar to children of many generations—Curious George has been a literary favorite for more than sixty years, and Tarzan’s Cheeta was as familiar to fans as Jane and Boy.   More recently, Dreamworks Animation prominently featured tea-sipping, English accented chimpanzee characters in the feature film Madagascar , and as testimony to the character’s enduring popularity, Curious George has progressed from books to a feature film to a PBS cartoon series.   Prior to becoming President of the United States, Ronald Reagan was well-known for his role in Bedtime for Bonzo , featuring a chimpanzee in the title role.   The use of chimpanzees as entertainers transgressed the Hollywood scene—“chimp shows” were regular parts of zoos and circuses across the country, showcasing apes who smoked cigars, rode unicycles, and wore suits and ties.   The anthropomorphication of the exotic apes no doubt influenced many Americans, including celebrities such as Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson, to keep chimpanzees as pets.

            As discoveries in evolutionary biology went mainstream, the close genetic relationship between chimpanzees and humans was revealed and eventually accepted as fact by most of the nation.   While the precise degree of genetic compatibility was not known until relatively recently, studies by anthropologists like Louis and Mary Leakey forced humans to acknowledge that chimpanzees and humans were closest cousins in the vast array of life on earth.   Discovery of this relationship as well as discovery of the high intelligence of chimpanzees in their own right ushered in another era—chimps as models for research that would lead to medical and technological advances for human beings.   Young chimpanzees named Ham and Enos orbited the earth after NASA scientists trained them to successfully operate controls on small space shuttles.   In American universities, Washoe and Nim Chimpsky learned American Sign Language.   Jane Goodall’s decades of research revealed chimpanzees as animals with high cognitive development that used tools, waged war, had sex for pleasure’s sake, and grieved for their dead.   By the 1970s, extreme social pressure against shabby treatment of animals that were “so like us” led to legislation that protected chimpanzees from the cruelest of conditions, but did not go so far as to free them from their subservient relationship with human beings. [1]

            American culture has looked at chimpanzees through many lenses over the decades.   Today they are afforded some protection under the law, but the scope of coverage is limited and filled with gaps, meaning that the treatment they receive is generally subject only to the mercies of those who control them.   Minimal regulations ensure that chimpanzees are not generally subjected to outrageously cruel treatment, but they still are kept in conditions that many argue are unfit for such highly social and intelligent beings.   Wide gaps is regulatory coverage mean that what is cruel to animal welfare advocates may still be acceptable under the law if the treatment is part of research that will benefit humans, or within the limits of what is needed to control an “entertaining” chimp.   As recently as the 2006 Super Bowl, young chimps were dressed in suits and ties for a CareerBuilder.com advertisement.   In the last 5 years, numerous chimpanzees have been shot and killed in American zoos and sanctuaries as a result of escapes or attacks.

            The American legal system offers some protection to the chimpanzee, but what level of protection they deserve is still hotly debated.   Some countries are edging closer to giving chimpanzees and other Great Apes protection akin to legal personhood.   In the United States, chimpanzees occupy a sort of legal limbo, in a system that attempts to protect wild chimpanzees from extinction, and yet continues to allow breeding of “domestic populations” to supply animals for entertainment and research.   Yet other countries—due mainly to economic pressures and cultural differences—view and treat chimpanzees as little more than commercially profitable foodstuff.

            This article will look at the various ways the American legal system affects chimpanzees held in the United States, and those populations remaining in the wild.  Specifically, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna [CITES] is first examined with respect to chimpanzee protection on an international basis.  The paper then delves into laws other countries have enacted, with a special look at how the extensive bushmeat trade frustrates the efforts of many African nations.  Finally, the paper turns its lens back to the U.S. and analyzes the various federal laws enacted to preserve chimps both in the wild and in captivity.  The paper concludes by finding the laws currently in effect, both in the U.S. and abroad, are insufficient to preserve the diminishing chimp population.  Moreover, the loopholes in these laws create a system where the protection of chimps exists only on paper, as these intelligent creatures continue to suffer exploitation in the biomedical and entertainment industries.


II . International and Non-US Efforts


            The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna [CITES] ( 27 U.S.T. 1087 under U.S. Treaty Services) [2] is the legal name for an international treaty established to regulate trade activities involving endangered and threatened species.   CITES has 150 participating countries , including all of the countries in West and Central Africa, where the bushmeat trade is threatening the immediate future of many species of primate.   Under CITES, each participating country is required to take affirmative steps toward managing endangered species, such as developing “Scientific Authority and Management” programs.   If the management process reveals that trade in a particular species will not “adversely affect” that species in its range or in its ecosystem, then a permit to trade it may be issued.

            In addition to developing management programs for CITES-listed species, participating nations are also required to “take appropriate measures to enforce the provisions of the present Convention and to prohibit trade in specimens in violation thereof.” [3] Chimpanzees are an Appendix I (pdf file) CITES listed species.   Appendix I lists species that are the most endangered—those that are verging on extinction.   Appendix I species are generally prohibited as a subject of commercial international trade. [4]

            Despite the fact that the western and central countries of Africa in which chimpanzees are found are parties to CITES , and despite the fact that under CITES, wild chimpanzees are listed as an Appendix I species, wild chimpanzee populations are still declining at an alarming rate.   It is estimated that only 150,000 chimpanzees remain in the wild. [5] Even with international legislation, attempts at curbing the downward spiral are failing.   The question then becomes, if international treaties are already in place, and have proved to be largely ineffective, what is left to be done?   Many conservationists and researchers attribute the problem to regulatory non-compliance at the local level.   In this sense, international legislation such as CITES is so far removed from the daily life of the humans sharing the wild chimps’ range that CITES compliance is virtually non-existent.   Some researchers have spoken with hunters and officials in chimpanzee country regarding this issue, and reported that when the government issues a mandate in the capital, it rarely affects the life and behavior of locals. [6]   Primate meat and parts are highly lucrative in the bushmeat trade and are still important on many cultural levels.   This, combined with expanding populations and increasing poverty, creates an incentive for locals to ignore CITES regulations and to continue hunting and selling chimpanzees. [ click here for photo]  


B. Other Countries

            Other countries have taken further action than the United States in granting legal protections to chimpanzees. [7]   In 1999, the New Zealand Parliament banned the use of nonhuman hominids in research, testing and teaching, except where such uses are in the best interests of the nonhuman hominid. [8] A nonhuman hominid is defined as “any non-human member of the family Hominidae, being a gorilla, chimpanzee, bonobo or orangutan.”  

            The United Kingdom banned new licenses for such research in 1997, although they continue to use other primates for research.   A consortium of four research councils and organizations are working to examine a future scientific base for research involving non-human primates, and to examine whether there are alternatives to using non-human primates in research. [9]

            The Dutch government banned research in 2002.   Article 10E of the Law on Animal Testing states that “[I]t is illegal to do an animal test that will include the use of chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans and gorillas.”   The Dutch parliament also voted unanimously to disband the last chimpanzee population used for research in Europe. [10]

            Japan has placed an unofficial moratorium on invasive chimp research. [11] The 2005, the Austrian Parliament unanimously passed an amendment to forbid research on the great apes. [12]

            In 2005, a Brazilian court indicated for the first time that a chimpanzee may have the legal personhood required to obtain a writ of habeas corpus. [13]   The chimpanzee was housed at “Salvador’s Zoo,” and kept in a cage that was too small to move around in.   Unfortunately, before the case could be decided, the chimpanzee died in the zoo in which he was housed. [14]  ( Click here to read the case.)

            On the other end of the spectrum, the struggling populations of wild chimpanzees are protected only by the local laws in the African countries in which they are found, and the efforts of the local human population to protect the chimps as a resource.   Chimpanzee sanctuaries and orphanages are found throughout Africa.   Often chimps end up there after being seized from a situation in which they were kept as pets, or were on their way into the chain of exotic animal trade, or were orphaned by poachers when their mothers and other members of their troop were killed.   These animals are taken care of as best as the orphanage’s resources allow, but most can not be released into the wild because they are unable to behave as normal chimps would. [15]   Chimpanzees can live for 50 years, and newly orphaned chimps are constantly being sent to African sanctuaries—this presents the obvious problem of resource exhaustion.  


C. Bushmeat

            Chimpanzees are one of many primate species that are prized and hunted where they occur for their value as food.   Some scientists predict that this human practice will result in chimpanzee extinction in 5-10 years. [16]   Some areas report decreases in the slaughter of great apes for bushmeat where hunters have learned that tourists will pay to see them in their natural habitat.   But the prediction is that this prospective venture is dependent upon apes becoming conditioned to the approach of humans.   If this does not happen, or does not happen fast enough to be lucrative, then hunters are likely to go back to the bushmeat trade.  [17]

            Further complicating attempts to account for the numbers of wild chimpanzees slaughtered for bushmeat is the recognition by African locals that Western tourists and researchers disapprove of the practice.   In some areas, local marketers have learned from verbal and facial expressions of Westerners, who are not accustomed to the idea of primate meat, that it is advantageous to hide primate parts when Westerners approach.   Conversely, hunters have been reported to approach Westerners with orphaned baby chimpanzees—the adult chimp has been killed for meat or parts, and the tourist might be talked into taking the chimp to “rescue” it from what they imagine is a worse fate.   In reality, this behavior encourages chimpanzee slaughter, because money can be earned from both the dead adult and the “rescued” orphan.   It is estimated that one baby chimpanzee will earn a hunter more than the sale of twenty blue duikers (a small antelope popular as a food source). [18]

            There are efforts locally to prevent hunting, but again, the omnipresent problem of abject poverty of the local human population means that there is an increasing inability for the humans to find food or income alternatives.   One of the many problems facing bushmeat crisis teams in these areas is that it is difficult to convince people to choose conservation of a threatened species over feeding their families. [19]


III . US Federal Laws

            There is no ban on using chimpanzees for scientific research or entertainment.   The most that federal laws do is regulate the conditions under which chimpanzees are transported and housed, and the ways in which humans must care for them while they are under their control.   The two main federal laws that affect chimpanzees are the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973 .


A. Animal Welfare Act

            The Animal Welfare Act [20] is a federal law adopted in 1966 in response to growing national pressure on government agencies to reduce animal suffering caused by humans.   However, the AWA does not ban all instances of animal cruelty on a nationwide basis, but rather regulates ownership by certain groups of certain species (including non-human primates), and regulates conditions under which the covered animals must be kept.   For instance, research facilities, dealers and exhibitors—such as circuses—are covered by the AWA, but “pet” owners and vets that are NOT part of licensed facilities are not.   The AWA also covers licensing and permitting, and regulates the ways in which any covered animal could enter the chain of commerce. [21]

            Under the 1985 amendments to the AWA, the Secretary of Agriculture must "promulgate standards to govern the humane handling, care, treatment, and transportation of animals by dealers, research facilities, and exhibitors." [22]   The regulations pertaining to non-human primates are found in sections 3.75 to 3.92 [23]   housing facilities (indoor, outdoor, sheltered, traveling and primary) [24] ; environmental enhancement to promote psychological well-being [25] ; feeding [26] ; watering, cleaning, sanitization, housekeeping and pest control [27] ; employees [28] ; consignment to carriers and intermediate handlers [29] ; primary enclosures used to transport [30] ; primary conveyances [31] ; food and water requirements [32] ; care in transit [33] ; and terminal facilities and handling. [34]

            Facilities are subject to inspection by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture under two circumstances.   The first type is a routine inspection that can place anytime, to inspect the condition and records of the facility.   The second occurs as a result of a complaint filed with either the USDA or APHIS—if a complaint is filed, there must be an inspection.   If there are violations, then the facility is given a chance to cure the defect, followed by another inspection.   If the violations are so egregious as to require sanctions, then complaints are filed within the administrative agency (USDA) in accordance with administrative judicial rules and proceedings, and a hearing commences.   Although decisions by the administrative agency may be appealed, administrative decisions are normally accorded a great deal of deference by the courts.   Typical sanctions are fines, and/or license suspension or revocation.

            Under the Administrative Procedures Act, any person "injured" by the actions or non-actions of an agency may file a lawsuit to see redress of the injury. [35]   Where a person is subject to an agency regulation that somehow affects how that person holds and ships animals, he or she would be able to sue the agency on the basis of economic injury.   It is not as easy for a person to sue on behalf of animal suffering.   One problem there relates to recognition of the problem—most laboratories and universities are not open to public tours.   Another issue is standing.   If a person simply sees suffering of a chimpanzee but is not personally affected by the treatment, then there may be no standing to sue on the basis of a protected interest.   However, in 1998, the District Court of Columbia Circuit Court held that a plaintiff suing the USDA on the basis of its failure to prevent the suffering of a primate pursuant to the AWA, had standing. [36]   The plaintiff alleged aesthetic injury after seeing a primate named Barney housed alone with no access to other chimpanzees, and maintained that the USDA failed in its duty to provide “ minimum standards to govern the humane treatment of primates,” as required by the AWA. [37]

            The truly unique feature of AWA regulations concerning chimpanzees is the requirement for “psychological well-being.” [38]   This is the first regulation of its kind in American federal law.   It may have been adopted due to recognition of chimpanzees’ intellectual and emotional development, or it may have been adopted due to the belief that “happier” animals make healthier research subjects.   No matter what the impetus for the psychological well-being requirement, it represents a fundamental turning-point in our attitude toward treatment of chimps in captivity, and also gives conservationists and other welfare advocates a powerful tool in challenging suspect treatment in court.  [ click here for photo]

            However, the availability of such a tool does not automatically lead to psychological well-being in practice.   AWA regulations leave it to the facilities housing the chimpanzees to safe-guard the chimps’ emotional well-being.   Aside from issues of awareness, enforcement and conflict of interest presented by asking the cat to watch the canary, other equally important issues are presented—what does it mean for a chimpanzee to be “well,” psychologically?   Is it enough for chimpanzees to be housed socially, no matter what the conditions otherwise?   If chimps are given access to a playground and other toys for 3 hours a day, but subject to painful tests for the other 21 hours, is that acceptable under § 3.81 ?   Under the current regulations, it may be impossible to tell, and different scientist may come up with different answers to all of those questions.   When an animal is on display, plaintiffs may have the opportunity to litigate on the basis of an aesthetic injury.   But in cases where the public is not given access to chimpanzees, there may be very few instances in which a negligent facility is taken to task under § 3.81.  

            The AWA covers chimpanzees captively held in the United States, wild chimps are not reached by the Act; the Endangered Species Act covers wild chimps and their habitat.


B. Endangered Species Act

            By the 1970s, it was apparent that human activity was having a devastating impact on the existence of many species on a global scale.   As a result, Congress adopted the Endangered Species Act of 1973 , which requires the identification of species around the world that are endangered or threatened with extinction. [39]   The United States government, and those countries which participate in the ESA, work to identify habitat which is critical to the species in question, and take affirmative action to bring the population back to viable numbers.   Goals of the ESA include the conservation of ecosystems and endangered or threatened species, as well as the achievement of purposes listed in the international treaties that are part of the Act. [40]  Endangered species are those in immediate danger of extinction, and threatened species are those that are not yet endangered, but carry traits of a species that is likely to become endangered.

            The chimpanzee, according to the ESA, is “Endangered” wherever found in the wild, but “Threatened” wherever found in captivity.   This definitional dichotomy can be traced back to the ESA’s “Special Rule” 17.40 [41]

(2) The prohibitions referred to above do not apply to any live member of such species held in captivity in the United States on the effective date of the final rulemaking, or to the progeny of such animals, or to the progeny of animals legally imported into the United States after the effective date of the final rulemaking, Provided, That the person wishing to engage in any activity which would otherwise be prohibited must be able to show satisfactory documentary or other evidence as to the captive status of the particular member of the species on the effective date of this rulemaking or that the particular member of the species was born in captivity in the United States after the effective date of this rulemaking. Identification of the particular member to a record in the International Species Inventory System (ISIS), or to a Federal, State or local government permit, shall be deemed to be satisfactory evidence. Records in the form of studbooks or inventories, kept in the normal course of business, shall be acceptable as evidence . . .

  (3) The provisions of §§ 17.21 , 17.22, and 17.23 shall apply to any individual chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) within the historic range of the species, regardless of whether in the wild or captivity, and also shall apply to any individual chimpanzee not within this range, but which has originated within this range after the effective date of these regulations, and also shall apply to the progeny of any such chimpanzee, other than to the progeny of animals legally imported into the United States after the effective date of these regulations. For the purposes of this paragraph, the historic range of the chimpanzee shall consist of the following countries: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, and Zaire (Emphasis added).

            The Endangered Species Act provides two types of protection to one species.   From the language emphasized above, it is clear that chimpanzees born to chimps that have been illegally imported after the effective date of the ESA are NOT protected by the statute.   This means that the United States and any other countries subject to the requirements of the Endangered Species Act are free to own and breed chimpanzees that are part of this subset of the chimpanzee population.   There is no difference in the biology of wild chimpanzees and captive-bred chimpanzees.   This provision of the ESA has effectively established a “domestic” population of chimpanzees, a species that is in all other ways in the most extreme danger of extinction, which can theoretically be replenished forever.   The domestic chimpanzees are bred to re-stock laboratories and the entertainment industry, and despite the fact that there is no biological difference between them and the wild chimpanzees covered by the ESA, they are only protected in the limited fashion of the Animal Welfare Act , discussed above.   It is estimated that 80% of captive chimpanzees live in the United States. [42]  

            While both the AWA and ESA may seem at first blush to provide the chimpanzee species with expansive protection, in fact there are many gaps in protection, and most chimps that are directly affected by human activity fall in those gaps—as in the captive chimpanzee population that is continuously bred for use in laboratory research.   Even though these animals number into the thousands, and even though there is no limit on the medical research community’s ability to breed thousands more, neither the AWA nor the ESA specifically provide a comprehensive regime for their protection.   There is only one law that purports to protect those chimpanzees that have spent their lives as research subjects— the Chimp Act .


C. The CHIMP Act

            The CHIMP (Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance and Protection) Act was signed in to law in 2000. [43]   It established a national sanctuary system in which chimpanzees who are retired from U.S. laboratory research are sent.   There are an estimated 1,400 chimpanzees in laboratories today.   Once retired, the federally-funded sanctuaries must provide lifetime care for the residents, as well as house them in social groups in a natural environment, and must not engage in euthanasia.   Chimp Haven, a sanctuary in Shreveport, Louisiana, received the first of the retired chimps in 2002.   It is estimated that 131 retired laboratory chimpanzees will live there by the end of 2006.  

            While this statute is the first of its kind in the United States, it nonetheless leaves the door open for continued research on the “retiree.”   Animals may be called back to the laboratories under certain conditions, such as if the distress of such a call-back is minimal to the subject as well as members of its social group, if the retiree was the subject of particularly unique research that could not be duplicated on a non-retired chimpanzee, or if the research is for an important health need.   Additionally, transferring these animals has already proved to be hazardous for some: chimps have died in or immediately following transport to retirement sanctuaries.  [44]  


IV . Local Law

A. State Cruelty Statutes

            Every state has some form of an anti-cruelty statute on the books. [45]   While federal law applies mainly to chimps in research facilities, state cruelty laws apply to all mammals, and in terms of chimpanzees, that would in turn apply mainly to those in exhibitions and exhibitors operating within the jurisdiction of a particular state’s law.   Excessive neglect or cruelty to a chimpanzee by its owner/exhibitor would almost always be reachable in state court through the state’s anti-cruelty laws.   Many of these state statutes exempt activities carried on within federally licensed research facilities.   Laboratory chimps, therefore, are not given any additional legal protection through state laws.   While individual exhibitors generally must govern themselves when it comes to the appropriate level of protection for the chimps under their care, other organizations have taken it upon themselves to develop uniform guidelines for primate care.


V. Self-Imposed Guidelines

A. The Association of Sanctuaries

              The Association of Sanctuaries (TAOS) was founded in 1992. [46]   It was created in an effort to differentiate between reputable, responsible organizations that provide shelter and care for animals, and organizations which referred to themselves as sanctuaries but in fact contributed to the problems of animal abuse and exploitation through lax guidelines and little or no standards of care.   In 2005, TAOS released a Manual of Accreditation, with stringent guidelines enumerated for sanctuaries belonging to the organization.   The guidelines range from general requirements to species-specific necessities.   TAOS introduces the manual with the following definition for “Animal Sanctuary”:   A facility that rescues and provides shelter and care for animals that have been abused, injured, abandoned or are otherwise in need, where the welfare of each individual animal shall be the primary consideration in all sanctuary actions.   In order to become accredited by TAOS, no sanctuary can engage in any commercial activity involving animals, such as sale of animal parts or by-products.   There can be no propagation of animals in the sanctuary, no animals on exhibit, no direct contact between the public and the animals, and the animals may not be taken from the sanctuary grounds for exhibition or education.   TAOS requires each sanctuary to ensure high-quality lifelong animal care.

            The manual lists guidelines for many species of animals, including a breakdown of care for prosimians, marmosets and tamarins, other New World monkeys, langurs and colobinae, Old World monkeys, the Lesser Apes and the Great Apes.   The manual lists the following factors in care and housing of the Great Apes.  

            “Vertical aspects” for chimpanzee enclosures are required, and it is noted that although chimps are more terrestrial than orangutans, they still climb and use trees in various ways.   Cages must be 15,000 square feet and 15 feet high for a single common chimp or two bonobos.   If adults are grouped in twos, then 20,000 square feet must be provided.   If the space is not divided into separate areas, then two or more shift cages at a minimum of 6x10x8 must also be available.

            Furnishing requirements are included in the guidelines.   Flat platforms for nest building must be provided, and must be placed at least 1 meter apart and constructed at varying heights.   Three dimensional structures for climbing should be included.   Nesting material such as hay must be provided on a daily basis.   Ropes are suggested, but it is noted that they should be securely anchored, and taut, to prevent the animal from wrapping the rope around itself.   Balls, tires and large empty plastic drums are suggested, to give the apes the opportunity to manipulate objects.   TAOS cautions that apes have “extensive abilities to manipulate cage parts,” and indicates that bolts and screws should be on the outside of cages if possible, and if on the inside, should be flush mounted.

            The manual suggests an omnivorous diet for chimps and bonobos, including commercially prepared diet and chow, as well as fresh fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens, as well as live insects and eggs, occasionally.

            TAOS provides basic guidelines for the social grouping of chimpanzees, noting the fluidity of their social structure in the wild.   A sanctuary must house two animals together, at minimum.   If possible, a larger group is recommended.

            In addition to the species-specific guidelines listed above for great apes, the manual also provides guidelines for general care of nonhuman primates.   All non-human primates must be transported according to the regulations set by the International Air Transport Association and the USDA Animal Welfare Act.   Non-human primates should always have shade, access to warmth or coolness, according to the weather, and access to privacy.  

            TAOS indicates that non-human primates are social, and should never be housed alone unless for medical reasons.   The social groupings in captivity are to reflect the type sound in the wild, according to the species.   A preferred social group is “one that encourages activity and promotes normal behaviors.”   Behavioral enrichment programs should be instituted to provide physical, social and psychological stimulation.   Items used for enrichment should be safe and varied. 

           Health and safety issues include such items as vet care, immunizations, quarantine and medical histories.   It is noted that many primates that come to sanctuaries have been involved in biomedical research.   Sanctuary personnel are required to be trained in husbandry and care of non-human primates, and well-versed in the sanctuary protocol.   The TAOS manual indicates that each sanctuary should have a protocol to follow in case of emergency (such as weather), and in case of an animal escape, but it does not provide a framework for such a protocol.


B. The American Association of Zoos and Aquariums  

            The American Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) has not promulgated specific, across-the-board guidelines for the housing of chimpanzees at its (more than 200) member facilities. [47]   The organization does list information for animal “husbandry and welfare” and “standardized guidelines” on its website. [48]   Perhaps because of a lack of cohesive guidelines set to properly manage such an intelligent and physically powerful animal, there are numerous incidents of escapes and attacks at zoos and other facilities. [49]


VI . Conclusion

            Although there are now federal and state laws that afford some protection for the physical and psychological well-being of the chimpanzee species as a whole, these laws are nonetheless rife with loopholes and ambiguities.   Animal interest advocates have done much over recent decades to spotlight the plight of wild chimpanzees abroad and captive chimps at home, but the lack of international cohesion and the duplicity of American legislation unfortunately leave the fate of the chimpanzee species in an increasingly precarious position.  

            For anyone with the most basic sense of compassion and morality, the American legal system’s oxymoronic attitude toward chimpanzees is puzzling at best, and repugnant at worst.   It is surprising and disappointing to many that the abundance of scientific proof regarding the cognitive and emotional capacity of chimpanzees has not garnered more of an effort to protect the species.   One only has to look at the pattern of legal protection afforded the species to see where the United States’ priorities lie.   While we urge African countries to stop hunting, poaching, eating and selling wild chimpanzees, we in the United States give almost limitless control to an individual who wishes to charge fees for pictures with a chimp in a local blockbuster, and allow research facilities to basically govern themselves, while knowing that chimpanzees are often repeatedly subjected to painful experiments and deplorable living conditions within their walls.  

            Sadly, it is still the case that our concern for chimpanzee welfare only extends to the point that humans are harmed or benefited by the way in which they are treated.   Although the requirement for psychological well-being within the AWA represents one step in a new and proper direction, it is woefully inadequate on a wider scale.   American laws are specifically fashioned to place chimpanzee welfare second to research concerns, despite a plethora of evidence indicating that the use of non-human primates in such research is a poor model for human biology, and that technological advances now make it possible to perform the same research more accurately through the use of artificial means. [50]   Even worse, American laws are specifically fashioned to place chimpanzee welfare second to the whims of the entertainment industry—allowing chimpanzees to be owned and exhibited legally by people who take them on chain collars to local bazaars and stores, with little concern for whether or not the “pets” are receiving any care beyond the minimum required to keep them alive.

            In the United States, the main concern for chimpanzees is their welfare.   Abroad, the main concern is for simple survival of the species.   However, there is only so much that can be done by countries other than those in which wild chimpanzees still occur.   The Endangered Species Act is one of the plainest and most strenuously directive of all environmental laws, and yet it does not appear to be enough to curb the extinction of chimpanzees in the wild.   In the face of that problem, countries that have captive chimpanzees may prove to be even more instrumental in ensuring the survival of the species—if chimpanzee populations fall below the level of sustainability in the wild, then (one day) introducing chimps bred for labs and zoos into the wild may be the only way of saving the species.   The success of re-introducing chimpanzees into the wild has been minimal, let alone introducing laboratory animals that have never seen the wild, but that may end up being our only choice.   However, given our treatment of captive chimpanzees today, it is hard to imagine a day in which research and entertainment interests will take a back seat to conservation concerns.

            Concerned citizens and animal advocates must continue to focus on strengthening welfare laws in the US and closing existing loopholes within those laws.   Even though the motivation behind allowing chimps to be continuously bred in the US is dubious, that replenishing population may end up one day saving the species.   Changing public perception of the importance of desisting use of chimpanzees is crucial, because only through intense and continuous public pressure will the legislature take heed, especially in the face of opposing pressure from the deep-pocketed medical and entertainment industries.   International conservation efforts are equally crucial, because the loss of current population of wild chimpanzees may indeed translate into a permanent loss of the species in the wild, due to the difficulty of acclimating captive chimps to the wild, and due to the presence of the problems that decimated wild chimp populations in the first place.

            We have indeed come some distance from chimp shows featuring animals in spectacles and suspenders, but much more must quickly be done if the chimpanzee population has any hope of survival, and much more should quickly be done to relieve the suffering of the chimpanzees in our care.


[1] For a detailed list of “famous” fictional and real chimpanzees, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_apes

[2] CITES , Animal Legal & Historical Web Center, on-line at http://www.animallaw.info/treaties/itcites.htm

[4] For a detailed discussion of CITES, see http://www.animallaw.info/articles/ovcites.htm

[5] The Jane Goodall Institute, on-line at http://www.janegoodall.org

[6] John Ekow Yarney, 2001. Bushmeat Triggers Off Crisis , on-line at http://www.biodiversityreporting.org/index.php

[7] Release & Restitution for Chimpanzees in U.S. Laboratories, Country Bans , on-line at http://www.releasechimps.org/mission/end-chimpanzee-research/country-bans/

[8] Animal Welfare Act, 1999.   Read the entire text of the Act at    http://animallaw.info/statutes/stusawa.htm .

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] “The Great Primate Debate,” Nature , Vol. 417, p. 3 (June 13, 2002)

[12] Id.

[13] Official Diary for October 4th 2005, 9 th Criminal Court of Brazil, on-line at   http://www.animallaw.info/nonus/cases/cabrsuicaeng2005.htm

[14] Id.

[15] For more on hazards of interactions between released chimpanzees and wild chimpanzees, see Katharine Davis, Captive Chimpanzees’ Release Declared a Success , NewScientist.com on-line at http://www.newscientist.com/channel/life/endangered-species/dn7047

[16] Born Free Foundation, on-line at http://www.bornfree.org.uk/primate/prim75.htm

[17] Gary Strieker, 1999.   Growing Demand for “Bushmeat” Threatens Great Apes , cnn.com, on-line at http://www.cnn.com/NATURE/9908/12/cameroon.ape.meat/

[18] Lise Albrechtsen, Brigid Barry, An Orphaned Chimp: Side Effects of the Bushmeat Trade , Wildlife Research Conservation Unit, on-line at http://www.wildcru.org/aboutus/news/albrechtsen2.htm

[19] More difficulties presented by the bushmeat trade are discussed above in the Conservation section of the Biological Accounts.  

[21] For a detailed overview of the AWA, see David Favre, Animal Welfare Act, on-line at http://www.animallaw.info/articles/ovusawa.htm

[22] Pub.L. No. 99-198, § 1752, 99 Stat. 1354, 1645 (1985) (codified at 7 U.S.C. § 2143(a) (1994)) .

[24] Id. at §3.75-3.80 .

[25] Id. at §3.81 .

[26] Id. at §3.82 .

[27] Id. at §3.84 .

[28] Id. at §3.85 .

[29] Id. at §3.86 .

[30] Id. at §3.87 .

[31] Id. at §3.88 .

[32] Id. at §3.89 .

[33] Id. at §3.90 .

[34] Id. at §3.92 .

[35] Administrative Procedures Act, 5 U.S.C. 551, et.seq

[36] Animal Legal Defense Fund, Inc. v. Glickman , 154 F.3d 426, C.A.D.C.,1998

[40] For a full review of the Endangered Species Act, see David Favre, on-line at http://www.animallaw.info/articles/ovusesa.htm

[41] 50 CFR; Subchapter B; Part 17; Subpart D; Section 17.40(c)(1)(2)

[42] Chimpanzees: The Value of Research Versus Endangerment , Trade and Environment Database Case Studies, on-line at http://www.american.edu/ted/chimp.htm

[44] Stephanie Edwards, Handle with Care: A Cautionary Tale of Chimpanzees Moving into Retirement , Humane Society of the United States, on-line at http://www.hsus.org/animals_in_research/monkeys_and_apes_in_research/chimpanzee_retirement/chimpanzees_on_the_move.html

[45] For a detailed discussion of state cruelty statutes, see Rebecca Wisch, on-line at http://www.animallaw.info/topics/spusstatecrueltylaws.htm

[46] The Association of Sanctuaries, Manual of Accreditation, 2005.

[47] For a detailed discussion of laws affecting zoos, see Kali Grech, on-line at http://www.animallaw.info/articles/dduszoos.htm

[48] However, both documents are accessible by AZA members only at www.aza.org/AnMgt/

[49] See “Incidents in Captivity”

[50] “Still Dying of Ignorance? 25 Years of Failed Primate AIDS Research,” British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, online at http://www.buav.org/medicalresearch/hiv.html

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