What is split listing and why is it a significant issue for chimpanzees?

This question was featured in the fall 2013 edition of Chimp Chatter, our quarterly newsletter.

Dear Patti,

What is split listing and why is it a significant issue for chimpanzees?

From, Rachel

Dear Rachel,

Great question! Chimpanzees are the only species that are split listed, meaning that we have more than one classification under the Endangered Species Act (ESA): wild chimpanzees are recognized as endangered but captive chimpanzees are listed as threatened.  This rule permits captive chimpanzees in the US to be used unreservedly in biomedical research and continuously exploited by the pet and entertainment industries, despite the fact that we are clearly endangered in the wild.  As a result, it promotes the oppression of my species and undermines conservation efforts to ensure that we do not become extinct.

However, a proposal to protect all chimpanzees under the ESA by removing the split-listing status and declaring us all an endangered species, regardless of whether we are wild or captive, was recently submitted to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  With any luck, captive chimpanzees will soon receive the same level of protection as wild chimpanzees, thus significantly reducing our exploitation by the biomedical research, pet and entertainment industries, and bringing us one step closer to eliminating it entirely.

If you’d like more information about split listing and the current status of the proposal to eliminate it, the Humane Society is an excellent resource.

Stay tuned and cross your fingers!

Love, Patti