Zero. That’s the number of labs that have applied for a permit to conduct invasive research on chimpanzees in the United States, as required by a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) rule. The number suggests that all biomedical research on chimps has stopped—or is about to stop—and it’s unclear whether the work will ever start up again.
“This is the beginning of the end of invasive chimpanzee research,” says Stephen Ross, the director of the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Illinois, who pushed for the FWS rule. “Scientists have seen the writing on the wall.”
Biomedical research on chimpanzees has been waning since 2013, when the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that it would phase out most government-funded chimp research and retire the majority of its research chimps to sanctuaries. The most recent blow came in June, when FWS stated that all U.S. chimpanzees—including the more than 700 chimps used in research—would be classified as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Any labs that wished to continue invasive work on these animals would need to apply for an ESA permit, and permits would only be allowed for work that enhances the survival of the species and benefits chimpanzees in the wild.