The US Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking to label all chimpanzees as endangered, the Nature News Blog reports. Such a move could, as the New York Times says, enact a "major barrier to conducting invasive medical research on the animals for human diseases."
Currently, the US considers only wild chimps to be endangered, and this change would expand the coverage of the Endangered Species Act to all captive chimps, including ones in zoos, private homes, and research centers.
According to the Nature News Blog, primatologist Jane Goodall, speaking on the behalf of a number of animal welfare groups that had petitioned for the change, says it is "an important step toward saving our closest living relatives from extinction."
The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology says, however, that changing the status of chimpanzees "would make biomedical research using chimpanzees difficult" and "[we] believe the status change will negatively affect the health of both humans and great apes."
Under this rule, to study chimpanzees, researchers would need to establish that their research would contribute to their conservation and receive a permit, the Times adds.
In January, the National Institutes of Health announced that it planned to retire most of its research chimpanzees. The 60-day comment period on that plan recently ended, and the Times notes that the final decision has not yet been released.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service recommendation is open for its own 60-day comment period.