In Direct Response To Our Lawsuit the Fish and Wildlife Service Rescinds Decision to Grant Yerkes a Permit to Export Eight Chimpanzees to England

In direct response to a lawsuit we filed on Monday, November 30, 2015, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) today informed us that it has decided not to issue a permit to the Yerkes Primate Center in Atlanta Georgia that would have allowed Yerkes to export eight captive chimpanzees to an unaccredited zoo in England, Wingham Wildlife Park.  The FWS had informed us late in the day on Friday, November 27, that it intended to issue the permit on Monday, December 7.  We filed a lawsuit on Monday on behalf of a coalition of animal welfare organizations, chimpanzee sanctuaries, and individuals – led by the New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS) -- challenging that decision on the grounds that the FWS had failed to provide the public with material information during the 30-day comment period held on the permit application.  The lawsuit also asserted that the FWS’s decision to grant the permit in exchange for a promise by Yerkes to make a financial contribution to an organization to “launch” a “new” program to conserve chimpanzees in the wild violated the plain language of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which requires that the activities for which permits are granted allowing otherwise unlawful activities with respect to an endangered species must themselves “enhance the propagation or survival” of the species, and that such permits were not for sale in exchange for promises to make financial contributions to unrelated organizations (the so-called “pay to play” practice).   NEAVS and the other plaintiffs further argued that in making its decision the FWS violated all of the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), including by failing to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement, despite the fact that this decision – the first since the FWS officially listed the captive members of the chimpanzees as “endangered” under the ESA – was highly controversial and had enormous precedential impacts for the future of all captive chimpanzees in this country, as well as chimpanzees in the wild.   The lawsuit also challenged the FWS’s failure to consider reasonable alternatives, including the obvious alternative of denying the permit so that Yerkes would instead send these eight chimpanzees to a U.S. sanctuary.   Although we were prepared to seek emergency injunctive relief to stop the export of the chimpanzees, the FWS has now rescinded the permit decision and will re-open the comment period on Yerkes’ application for another 30 days before making a final decision.  A copy of the lawsuit can be found here.