A new proposal by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to declare chimpanzees living in captivity as "endangered" rather than "threatened" is more than just semantics: It will help protect the primates from being the subjects of medical research. Since 1990, only wild chimps have classified by the US as an endangered species, while their captive counterparts have been available for science experiments, the Washington Post reports. "The rule proposed today would correct this inconsistency," says the agency in a press release.
The US is the only first-world country that still allows great apes to be used for research, according to the Post. Under the changes, research with chimps would still be allowed, but would require a permit, the New York Times reports. The change would also have implications for the import and export of chimpanzees and their movements across state lines. How it would affect chimps in the entertainment industry is still up for discussion, but the Humane Society says it will be pushing for restrictions. (Read more chimpanzees stories.)