|Chimpanzees "fishing" for termites in Gombe National Park|
It has been recently reported that the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service is announcing a rule that would provide chimpanzees with greater protection. The proposal pleased renowned primatologist and chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall, who congratulated the service for the decision. She further added that this is also good news for all animal rights organizations, especially the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) who have worked very hard in advocating against the use of chimpanzees in circuses, films, television shows, and even testing. This proposed rule would change the current classifications that assume wild chimps as "endangered" and their captive counterparts as "threatened." This split classification enables the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to finance medical experiments conducted on captive chimps. The U.S is the only nation in the world that is known to carry out invasive medical research on chimpanzees. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) stated that over one million chimpanzees disappeared from the wild since the twentieth century, and indicated that about 300,000 remain in the wild. However, the capture of these primates and destruction of their habitat is further making those numbers to go down. The proposition is expected to be decided after being open to public commentary for two months, and happens in about one month after the NIH announced plans to "retire" about 360 government-owned chimpanzees from its research facilities. That step would leave approximately fifty chimps still in the organization's custody. In January, a working group for the NIH told the organization that it should put a stop to six of the nine invasive chimp studies it finances. These studies include searching for a contagious cause for primary biliary cirrhosis and tests on the immune system's response to diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
I'm extremely proud of the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service for proposing this rule in helping save lives of chimpanzees. These closest relatives of human beings have for generations been used for the purposes of "entertaining" the general public through circus performances, films, and television shows. The driving force behind the entertainment these primates provide is the harsh treatment they are subjected to from their trainers behind the camera. Furthermore, the chimps' attractive looks have made them a popular choice for buyers and sellers as exotic pets. However, as with any wild animal that is smuggled overseas as an exotic pet, the ultimate price to pay is the unpredictable behavior exhibited these primates that result in serious injury or even death of their so-called owners. This example was seen in the case of a chimpanzee named Travis, who gained notoriety for severly injuring his owner's friend in the state of Connecticut. The idea of bringing a chimpanzee or any other wild animal as a pet is deemed as inviting trouble to one's doorstep. It is an accident that is waiting to happen at any given moment.
With this proposed rule pending, the buyers and sellers who function the exotic pet trade would be restricted from transporting these primates across federal or state lines. I very much hope that this rule will be put into action for the sake of safety of both chimpanzees and humans. Both species are closely related to one another, but one species is adapted for life in the wild and not in an urban environment. I also hope that the Fish and Wildlife Service will also impose similar rules in an effort to save other wild animals that are victims to the exotic pet trade, and impose threat on human lives. These include big cats, bears, reptiles, wolves, other primate species and even marine animals such as dolphins and killer whales. They are highly unpredictable, which is their true nature, in spite of the entertainment they exhibit on public television and in circuses and amusement parks. Putting a halt to these animals from being smuggled overseas or from state to state is a key to saving their lives, along with the public.
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