Chimp Not a Person, Court Rules

Austrian animal-rights group vows to continue fighting on simian's behalf
By Sam Gale Rosen,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 15, 2008 4:24 PM CST
Chimp Not a Person, Court Rules
This undated picture provided by Central Washington University on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2007 shows Washoe, a female chimpanzee believed to be the first non-human to acquire human language. (AP Photo/Central Washington University)   (Associated Press)

(Newser) – Matthew Hiasl Pan, a 26-year-old chimp, is not legally a person, the Austrian Supreme Court has ruled. The animal shelter where he lives has declared bankruptcy, and human donors have volunteered to support him. But under Austrian law, only people can receive personal gifts, reports the AP, so the court rejected an animal rights group's petition to change Matthew's legal status.

Matthew and another chimp, Rosi, were captured in Sierra Leone and smuggled into Austria to be used in lab tests, but customs officials intervened before the sale was made. A foundation could be set up to provide for Matthew, but advocates say only personhood can protect him from being sold. The group that filed the petition now plans to appeal the decision to the European Court of Human Rights. (Read more chimpanzees stories.)

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