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ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA -- Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), testified at a hearing on Tuesday in support of a bill that would prohibit the transport of nonhuman primates across state lines. The Captive Primate Safety Act (H.R. 2964), introduced in the United States House of Representatives by Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), was the subject of a hearing held by the U.S. House Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Oceans.
Dr. Goodall, whose research on wild chimpanzee behavior began in 1960 and whose Institute continues that research today along with an array of conservation and development work, noted that nonhuman primates require specialized care, housing, and the companionship of the same species. “The average pet owner is not equipped to take care of these creatures,” said Dr. Goodall. “Nonhuman primates are unpredictable. There is a lot of irresponsible selling of them. Regardless of the steps taken to tame and control nonhuman primates, once they reach sexual maturity it can be difficult, if not impossible, to contain and appropriately care for them, for essentially they remain wild animals.”
Nonhuman primates such as chimpanzees are often viewed as cute and harmless animals, but can become many times stronger than humans and are extremely difficult to handle as they reach sexual maturity. Even smaller primates can cause serious harm by biting and scratching. Nonhuman primates can spread diseases, including Herpes B, tuberculosis, and monkey pox.
Importing nonhuman primates into the United States for the pet trade has been banned by federal regulation since 1975 because of the health risks associated with keeping live primates as pets. Still, according to the Humane Society of the United States (“HSUS”), an estimated 15,000 primates are in private hands, and primates are readily available for purchase on the Internet and from exotic animal dealers. Most states regulate ownership of primates as pets, and the trend is for states to prohibit the practice altogether. However, because many of these animals move across state lines, federal legislation is needed to complement state laws.
“The Captive Primate Safety Act will promote public health and safety, as well as take a reasonable and sound step toward protecting these amazing creatures. I urge you to do all you can to pass it,” said Dr. Goodall to congressional members at the hearing.
A companion bill (S. 1498), introduced by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and David Vitter (R-LA), was approved by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works last July and is awaiting floor action. The Jane Goodall Institute supports the Captive Primate Safety Act and is working with HSUS to secure its passage.
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