Niagara Falls chimp case appeal denied

FILE PHOTOIn this 1997 photo, 9-year-old Kiko poses for a photo with Carmen Presti and Christie Scarupa at their Livingston Avenue sanctuary.

An appellate court has denied a legal motion that sought permission to appeal an earlier decision to a higher court in a case involving the "nonhuman rights" of a pair of chimpanzees, including one housed at a primate sanctuary in Niagara Falls. 

In a statement released Friday, the Nonhuman Rights Project acknowledged that the First Judicial Department denied its motion for permission to appeal the court's decision on behalf of chimpanzees Tommy and Kiko to New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals. 

“The First Judicial Department decision is disappointing, but no surprise,” said NhRP President and lead attorney Steven M. Wise. 

The Florida-based Nonhuman Rights Project animal advocacy group has argued that the two chimps should be freed from cages to live in an outdoor sanctuary.

Kiko's keeper, Carmen Presti of the Presti Primate Sanctuary in Niagara Falls, told the Associated Press last year that there's now way is he letting go of the deaf monkey he and his wife rescued 23 years ago from a life performing in fairs and movies. They described Kiko has a member of their family at the sanctuary.

Wise has sought the court's assistance in forcing the couple to give up the chimp, which he maintains should be considered as a person with a right to freedom outside of a cage.

Within the next 30 days, Wise said his organization intends to file a motion for permission to appeal with the Court of Appeals itself, urging it to reject the First Judicial Department’s erroneous approach to its common law habeas corpus cases. NhRP representatives also said they intend to engage in the "mature weighing of public policy and moral principle these novel and complex legal issues demand." They also expect several additional briefs will support their motion.

“We believe it is unjust to condemn extraordinarily complex—indeed autonomous—beings, such as chimpanzees, to a lifetime of captivity for the sole reason they are not human," Wise said. "We think the Court of Appeals should recognize that New York notions of fundamental justice support our arguments in favor of recognizing chimpanzees’ right to bodily liberty, and we are hopeful we will be given the opportunity to make that case.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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