By Michael Mountain
This morning at 10.00 E.T., the Nonhuman Rights Project filed suit in Fulton County Court in the state of New York on behalf of Tommy, a chimpanzee, who is being held captive in a cage in a shed at a used trailer lot in Gloversville.
This is the first of three suits we are filing this week. The second will be filed on Tuesday in Niagara Falls on behalf of Kiko, a chimpanzee who is deaf and living in a private home. And the third will be filed on Thursday on behalf of Hercules and Leo, who are owned by a research center and are being used in locomotion experiments at Stony Brook University on Long Island.
The lawsuits ask the judge to grant the chimpanzees the right to bodily liberty and to order that they be moved to a sanctuary that’s part of the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA), where they can live out their days with others of their kind in an environment as close to the wild as is possible in North America.
Rather than filing a single suit, the legal team decided to do a clean sweep of all the chimpanzees we could find in the state of New York. This was, in part, because we were increasingly worried about their health and welfare, in that two other chimpanzees who were originally going to be our first plaintiffs both died before we could bring the case.
Those two were Merlin and Reba, who were living in intolerable conditions at a roadside zoo, the Bailiwick Ranch and Discovery Zoo. The day our investigative team first visited this zoo, they found Merlin living alone, next to a bear, a tiger, and other animals pacing in their cages. When they asked about Merlin’s companion, Reba, they were told that she had recently died. Three months later, we visited the zoo a second time, only to discover that Merlin’s cage was empty. He, too, had died, two days earlier, of complications from an abscessed tooth. The owner of the zoo told us that Merlin had been punching himself in the face for several weeks before they had realized that something was the matter. He died in surgery.
And then, just a few weeks ago, Kiko’s companion, Charlie, died of a heart condition that is common to chimpanzees in captivity. He was only about 28 years old. More....