U.S. Fish & Wildlife Approves Exporting Chimps to U.K. Zoo in an Unprecedented “Pay to Play” Scheme

Seven Chimps from Yerkes Primate Research Center Are Expected to Travel to Wingham Wildlife Park before November

Yerkes Primate Research Center is trying to send seven chimpanzees to a Wingham Wildlife Park, a zoo in the U.K. which isn’t approved by any major accreditation organization, despite widespread opposition from animal protection and conservation organizations worldwide. A number of primate sanctuaries in the U.S. are willing to give the chimps high quality care for the rest of their lives, but the zoo wants the chimps because they’re a means to increase ticket sales.

Last week a trial concluded because the judge ruled that the plaintiffs, a coalition of chimpanzee experts and animal protection organizations determined to protect the chimps, lack “standing,” meaning they aren’t eligible to be heard by a court because they aren’t directly harmed by the issue. As a result, the chimpanzees are now expected to be shipped to the zoo before November 1 when the permit expires, and possibly very soon.

The chimps may leave the U.S. any day, so we need to act now! Please click here or (if that doesn’t work) copy the sample email below and send it to the Guardian, a major news outlet in the U.K., at international@theguardian.com, to ask them to cover this urgent issue.

The U.S.’s Endangered Species Act prohibits exporting endangered animals to another country unless the transfer benefits the conservation of the species. Yerkes arranged to make a token donation to the Population and Sustainability Network, a British organization that has never conducted programs for chimpanzees but planned to initiate a program to benefit them, to demonstrate that sending the chimps to the zoo has a conservation benefit.

Theodora Capaldo of NEAVS, which led the coalition to protect the chimps, said, “USFWS has used a “pay to play” approach authorizing entities to engage in activities otherwise strictly prohibited under the ESA with respect to endangered species. These seven endangered chimpanzees will now go from ‘working’ in a lab to ‘working’ in ‘commercial exhibition’ for further financial exploitation instead of retirement in a U.S. sanctuary, which they so deserve.”

Richard Wrangham, a PASA Board member who has worked with chimpanzees in the field in Africa for more than 40 years, was “…completely shocked and appalled this export will continue even in light of our warnings that allowing this deal will undercut our already difficult task of fending off the further commercialization of great apes, and particularly the black market in infant chimpanzees taken from the wild for the pet and exhibition trade.”

Allowing this transfer will weaken the Endangered Species Act, which is arguably the most important legislation in the U.S. for wildlife conservation. Furthermore, the deal can set a very dangerous precedent of transporting endangered animals to other countries under the guise of conservation when the underlying motive is financial profit. This scheme can be used to justify sending endangered animals to unaccredited zoos and private animal collections in the Middle East, China, and elsewhere, as long as the recipient of the animals makes a token donation to a conservation project.

The ruling may set a dangerous precedent which can justify exporting endangered species to any country.

PASA and our colleagues are determined to continue to try to block this export and let the chimpanzees spend the rest of their days in a sanctuary in the U.S. Since Wingham Wildlife Park intends to use the chimps to raise money through tourism, negative press about the issue in the U.K. can send a powerful message, and hopefully will apply enough pressure to put a stop to the export. The Guardian is a news source that has covered this issue.

Please email the Guardian at international@theguardian.com to ask them to write about this important issue!
Click here for a sample email which you can customize, or copy the sample email below.

Please act now because we need to raise as much awareness as possible before the chimps are sent to the zoo in UK, which may happen anytime before November 1.

For background information, please read a prior post about this issue.

Sample email:

To:international@theguardian.com

Subject:Please Write a Follow-Up Article about US Chimps Exported to the UK

To whom it may concern,

Despite scathing criticism from a US judge last week, a US research lab still plans to send 7 chimpanzees who have been retired from research to Wingham Wildlife Park in Kent. Although the judge was highly critical of the pay-to-play scheme which enables the chimps to be used for profit, the trial ended in favor of the research lab and the zoo because of a technicality.

As the chimps may be shipped any time before 1 November, this is an urgent issue.

Please read the press release at www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/federal-judge-chastises-fish–wildlife-service-for-selling-yerkes-endangered-species-permit-to-export-chimpanzees-overseas-but-finds-neavs-and-other-plaintiffs-lack-standing-to-stop-export-300329227.html.

The Guardian previously covered this story in this article: www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/04/chimpanzee-zoo-animal-research-us-fish-wildlife-service

After spending their lives in a research lab, these chimps deserve to live in a sanctuary.

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