Letter to John F. Morgan, Emory University

Mr. John F. Morgan
Emory University
Office of the Secretary
407 Administration Building
201 Dowman Drive
Atlanta, Georgia 30322


Dear Mr. Morgan:

The New England Anti-Vivisection Society is seeking to guarantee that the seven chimpanzees—Agatha, Elvira, Faye, Fritz, Lucas, Tara and Georgia—at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center (Yerkes) be retired to a U.S.-accredited sanctuary and not transferred overseas to Wingham Wildlife Park, an unaccredited zoo in the U.K. We and a coalition of chimpanzee experts and sanctuaries filed suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s export permit issued to Yerkes. Upon the court’s decision to permit this export— with strong legal reservations, as noted below—we have since appealed to Dr. Sterk, Emory University President, to instruct Yerkes to decline this permit and instead send the chimpanzees to sanctuary. We have not heard from Dr. Sterk and therefore felt it necessary to reach out to you directly.

It is crucial to understand that we were unable to prevail in court not because the case lacked merit, but rather because of the legal technicality of standing, i.e., the judge found that none of the Plaintiffs had the requisite “injury” to pursue the case. However, Judge Jackson went to great lengths in her summary judgement decision to recognize the merits of our case. In particular, she stated: “…Plaintiffs have ably made the persuasive argument that, far from viewing Section 10(a) as a limit on the circumstances in which the permitting of activities that impact endangered species can occur, FWS now apparently views that provision as a green light to launch a permit-exchange program wherein the agency brokers deals between, on the one hand, anyone who wishes to access endangered species in a manner prohibited by the ESA and has sufficient funds to finance that desire, and on the other, the agency’s own favored, species-related recipients of funds and other services.” She also wrote: “This Court considers doubtful FWS’s insistence that, when Congress penned Section 10(a) [the Endangered Species Act] it intended to authorize the agency to ‘sell’ its permits in this fashion so long as the affected species might (as a whole) be conceived of as benefitting from the exchange.” And further: “…on the merits, Plaintiffs’ case raises significant legal issues regarding whether or not the ESA actually authorizes FWS to permit the exportation of endangered species whenever the agency can somehow conceive of a way in which the act of granting the permit (as opposed to allowing the permitted activity) benefits the species of animal that is being exported.” The judge has thus put forth a virtual indictment of the very manner in which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wields its power to grant endangered species export permits, and in particular the one Yerkes now holds allowing it to export these chimpanzees.

We therefore ask that, on moral and ethical grounds, the Emory University Board of Trustees instruct Dr. R. Paul Johnson, Director of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, to withdraw the decision to send these seven endangered chimpanzees overseas to an unaccredited zoo and to instead, along with all the other remaining chimpanzees it holds, retire them to sanctuary as they so deserve. To allow the successfully legally challenged export to occur in the face of a legal technicality—the only reason it is allowed—is to show disregard for not only these chimpanzees but the learned opinion of our Courts. Such an action would tarnish Emory’s reputation, especially in light of the fact that there are several U.S. sanctuaries willing and eager to serve your chimpanzees. One, in Florida, can welcome them as soon as two weeks from a commitment to transfer, and one other is a mere 90 miles from your campus. NEAVS, in the spirit of cooperative effort, remains committed to providing Georgia, the matriarch, with lifetime care funding if and when she is safe in sanctuary.

I hope to hear from you and/or from Dr. Sterk. This is a highly visible public concern and I implore you to not continue to ignore our pleas for action and conversation.


Respectfully yours,

Theodora Capaldo, Ed.D.
New England Anti-Vivisection Society
333 Washington Street Suite 850
Boston, MA 02108
617 523 6020

CC: Dr. Claire E. Sterk, Emory University President