Second Lawsuit Filed To Stop Export Of Eight Chimpanzees From Yerkes To An Unaccredited Zoo In England

Yesterday, on behalf of the New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS) and a broad coalition of chimpanzee sanctuaries, organizations, and individuals, we filed another lawsuit to halt the export of eight chimpanzees from Yerkes National Primate Center in Atlanta, Georgia to the Wingham Wildlife Park – an unaccredited zoo in Kent, England.  (Please see previous blogs about this).  The suit was filed when the Plaintiffs were notified by the Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday, April 21, that it intended to issue the export permit to Yerkes on May 2, 2016.  This decision comes two months after the close of the second comment period on this matter – which was re-opened after Plaintiffs filed their first lawsuit challenging the permit last November.  As discussed in a previous blog, the comments submitted to the agency during the new comment period overwhelmingly opposed issuance of the permit, and world renowned chimpanzee experts and organizations explained that the export of these chimpanzees for exhibition will not only fail to “enhance the survival” of the species, as required by the Endangered Species Act, but will actually undermine legitimate conservation efforts for the chimpanzee species by sanctioning the exchange of captive chimpanzees for a promise to make a monetary contribution to another organization.  As explained by the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance, the largest network of in-situ conservation organizations in Africa,  the FWS’s decision to grant the export permit will set a “devastating precedent”  because “[t]here is already a great deal of pressure on [African] officials to come up with a legal way to export their endangered animals to other countries in exchange for large sums of money that could make a meaningful immediate financial impact for their country,” and allowing the transfer of this breeding group of chimpanzees to a facility that breeds and displays animals for commercial gain “would lead to higher incentives to capture wild born animals to provide for genetic diversification in breeding programs.”   Although the export was scheduled to take place on May 2, 2016, as a result of our lawsuit the government and Yerkes have agreed that the chimpanzees may not be exported until the Court can hear and decide Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, which they have asked the Court to decide by May 20.  Among the many Plaintiffs named in the Complaint is Georgia, the matriarch of the group targeted for export, who has spent her entire life in a laboratory.  At least five U.S. sanctuaries have said they are willing to provide the eight chimpanzees with a new home where they can live out their lives in peace, in a natural setting with their family members.  A copy of the Complaint can be found here.