Mobile Zoo Slapped With Notice of Lawsuit Over Plight of Neglected Chimpanzee

PETA Alleges That Solitary Primate Joe’s Virtually Barren Prison Violates the Endangered Species Act, Offers Free Transport for Him to a Sanctuary

For Immediate Release:
July 22, 2015

David Perle 202-483-7382

Wilmer, Ala.

PETA sent a letter this morning to the Mobile Zoo—where a chimpanzee named Joe is confined, isolated in a tiny enclosure, and harassed by visitors—notifying the Wilmer-based facility of its intent to sue under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Last month, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced that it was eliminating a loophole that excluded captive chimpanzees from the protections of the ESA. When the new rule goes into effect on September 14, 2015, all chimpanzees—including Joe—will be granted the same protection under the ESA. PETA’s letter contends that Joe’s imprisonment at the Mobile Zoo is an unlawful “take” (that is, he’s being harmed, harassed, or wounded) in violation of the ESA. The group is offering to assist in rehoming him to an appropriate sanctuary. This is the first legal action for captive chimpanzees since the loophole’s closing was announced.

“This chimpanzee has already endured years of suffering in miserable isolation, reduced to begging for peanuts and throwing dirt at visitors out of sheer frustration,” says PETA Foundation Deputy Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet. “The Mobile Zoo could do the right thing and take PETA up on its offer to move this endangered chimpanzee to a sanctuary where he’ll finally have acres to move about in and the companionship of other chimpanzees.”

For years, the Mobile Zoo has displayed Joe—a member of a highly social species—by himself in a virtually barren enclosure consisting of a packed dirt floor and a chain-link fence. In addition to a June 2015 citation for excessive dust and debris inside his enclosure, the facility has been repeatedly cited for failing to address his social and psychological needs. It has also allowed gawking visitors to harass him by throwing peanuts at him, causing him to lash out aggressively in response. Unsafe and unsanitary conditions are also a chronic problem at the Mobile Zoo, which has allowed cobwebs, flies, rust, and garbage to accumulate in Joe’s enclosure. The standard of care at the facility is so poor that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently seeking permanent revocation of its license to exhibit animals.

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