NY judge won't consider bid to free upstate chimp Kiko

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 29, 2016 5:26 PM

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - A New York judge on Friday blocked an animal rights group from pursuing a new lawsuit in Manhattan to free the chimpanzee Kiko from a Niagara Falls sanctuary, despite support from world-renowned primatologist Jane Goodall.

State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe refused to sign an order sought by the nonprofit Nonhuman Rights Project to force directors of The Primate Sanctuary into her Manhattan court to defend keeping Kiko in captivity.

The animal rights group has argued for many years in various courts that chimpanzees are intelligent animals that share many traits with humans, and that holding them captive amounts to unlawful imprisonment.

But Jaffe said the group previously filed four similar petitions in other state courts and, despite the new affidavits from Goodall and others, did not show why its latest request to free Kiko belonged in Manhattan.

Issues bearing on Kiko's fate "are best addressed" in upstate courts that have handled similar cases, Jaffe wrote.

Steven Wise, a lawyer for Nonhuman Rights Project, said the group plans to appeal. He also said state law lets the group bring its claims on Kiko's behalf in trial courts throughout New York, even though the chimpanzee is upstate.

The Primate Sanctuary did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Last July, Jaffe rejected the Nonhuman Rights Project's bid to free two other chimpanzees from a state university on Long Island, while acknowledging that the animals may in the future win limited legal rights.

In her affidavit, Goodall said there is ample proof that chimpanzees "have well-defined duties and responsibilities," and that "common law personhood" should be afforded to them.

The case is Nonhuman Rights Project Inc ex rel Kiko v Presti et al, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 150149/2016.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bernard Orr)