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First ever lawsuits seek to establish legal personhood status for chimps

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The Nonhuman Rights Project has announced plans to sue Stony Brook University on behalf of two chimps, Leo and Hercules, in order to establish their “personhood.”

The pair, owned by the University of Louisiana’s New Iberia Research Center, are currently being used in a locomotion research experiment by Stony Brook’s Anatomy Department.

According to layers for the animal advocacy group, “this lawsuit, and two similar ones filed on behalf of two other chimps, Tommy and Kiko, both 26, are based on scientific evidence proving that the apes are self-aware and autonomous, and therefore entitled to be recognized ass ‘legal persons’ with certain fundamental rights.”

Tommy now lives caged inside a shed at Circle L Trailer Sales in Gloversville, NY (about 35 miles northwest of the state capital Albany), while Kiko, who once appeared in movies, resides at the non-profit Primate Sanctuary owned by Carmen Presti in Niagara Falls.

“When we go to court on behalf of these chimp plaintiffs we will be asking New York State’s Supreme Court to recognize, for the first time, that these cognitively complex, autonomous being have the basic rights not to be imprisoned,” stated Steven Wise, president and founder of the Nonhuman Rights Project.

Wise who filed a classic writ of habeas corpus on behalf of the chimpanzees has previously written about the history of habeas corpus in the battle against human slavery.

To learn more about his organization visit



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