London, Jan 16 : An Austrian animal rights group's hopes to have a chimpanzee declared a person have been dashed, after the country's Supreme Court ruled that apes cannot be considered people.
The decision comes in response to a plea made by a local animal rights group requesting to be granted guardianship of chimp Matthew Hiasl Pan, after the shelter where he has lived in for 25 years, declared bankruptcy.
Matthew, according to the group, was at risk of being left without a home, reports the Scotsman.
Donations for the welfare of the animal were considered, but it was of no help, as Austrian law proclaims that only people are eligible to accept gifts and donations.
Thus the Vienna-based association took action and filed for the chimp to be considered a person, a ruling that would allow them to take the necessary actions for the animal's survival.
But the high court has upheld a September ruling by a judge in the town of Wiener Neustadt rejecting the petition.
Matthew and another chimp at the shelter, Rosi, were captured as babies in Sierra Leone in 1982 and smuggled to Austria for use in pharmaceutical experiments. Customs officers seized the shipment and handed over the chimps to the shelter.
The animal rights group is now planning to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
Story first published: Wednesday, January 16, 2008, 12:34 [IST]