BOSTON, Dec. 2, 2015 -- In response to a lawsuit filed Monday by a coalition of animal welfare organizations, sanctuaries, and individuals – led by the New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS) – the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) informed NEAVS today that instead of issuing a permit to Yerkes National Research Center under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to export eight chimpanzees to England, it would re-open the comment period and allow 30-days of additional public comment.
The FWS informed NEAVS et al. on Friday – the day after Thanksgiving – that it intended to issue the controversial permit that would allow Yerkes to export the chimpanzees to Wingham Wildlife Park, an unaccredited zoo in Kent, England, and that FWS would issue the permit as early as Monday, December 7, 2015. In response, NEAVS et al. – including individuals who previously worked at Yerkes with some of the chimpanzees – filed their lawsuit challenging that decision, and informed both the Court and FWS that they would be filing a motion for a temporary restraining order to stop the export. The Plaintiffs explained that FWS's decision to issue the permit based on information that was not made public during the original comment period violated their rights to information and comment.
They further argued that the decision violated the substantive requirements of the ESA which require a permit applicant to demonstrate the permitted activity would "enhance the propagation or survival" of the species. Yerkes cannot make this showing because the eight chimpanzees are not suitable for breeding to produce chimpanzees that can be reintroduced into the wild. Instead, FWS was going to allow Yerkes to export the chimpanzees to Wingham in exchange for Yerkes/Wingham contributing $45,000 a year for 5 years to an organization to "launch" a "new" chimpanzee program in Uganda. Asserting that ESA permits are not for sale, the Plaintiffs argued that this arrangement violated the ESA's requirements.
Theodora Capaldo, NEAVS president, stated: "We are happy our lawsuit convinced FWS it could not go forward with this permit as planned and that Lucas, Fritz, Agatha, Abby, Tara, Faye, Elvira and Georgia will at least get a 30-day reprieve from being shipped overseas to an unaccredited zoo where they would be exhibited and bred for commercial purpose." She added, "This gives us more time to document all that is wrong with this move and gives Yerkes and FWS time to reconsider this unwise decision, and instead arrange to transfer the chimps to one of many U.S. sanctuaries that have offered to give them a home."
NEAVS et al. are represented by the Washington, D.C. public interest law firm, Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks.
Contact: Nancy Finn, Director, Communications
(o) 617 523 6020 (c) 781 258 5813
Read release on PRNewswire.com here.