Now the sanctuary faces bankruptcy and Hiasl could be sent to the Baxter vivisection laboratory after all. Seeking to save Hiasl, who likes painting, ...
Court to rule if chimp has human rights
He recognises himself in the mirror, plays hide-and-seek and breaks into fits of giggles when tickled. He is also our closest evolutionary cousin.
A group of world leading primatologists argue that this is proof enough that Hiasl, a 26-year-old chimpanzee, deserves to be treated like a human. In a test case in Austria, campaigners are seeking to ditch the 'species barrier' and have taken Hiasl's case to court. If Hiasl is granted human status - and the rights that go with it - it will signal a victory for other primate species and unleash a wave of similar cases.
Hiasl's story began in 1982 when, as a baby, he was taken from Sierra Leone and smuggled into Austria in a crate with seven other chimps destined for a vivisection laboratory east of Vienna. But customs officers seized the crate and Hiasl was sent to an animal sanctuary. Now the sanctuary faces bankruptcy and Hiasl could be sent to the Baxter vivisection laboratory after all. Seeking to save Hiasl, who likes painting, kissing visitors and watching wildlife programmes, an Austrian businessman has donated �3,400 towards his upkeep.
However, unless Hiasl has a legal guardian who can manage the money it will go to the receivers. As only humans have a right to legal guardians, his campaigners say it is necessary for Hiasl's survival to prove that he is one of us. Primatologists and experts - from the world's most famous primate campaigner, Jane Goodall, to Professor Volker Sommer, a renowned wild chimp expert at University College London - will give evidence in the case, which is due to come to court in Vienna within the next few months.
One of their central arguments will be that a chimpanzee's DNA is 96-98.4 per cent similar to that of humans - closer than the relationship between donkeys and horses. They will cite recent findings that wild apes hunt with home-made spears and can fight battles and make peace. In New Zealand, apes - gorillas, orang utans, chimpanzees and bonobos - were granted special rights as 'non-human hominids' in 1999 to grant protection from maltreatment, slavery, torture, death and extinction.
Sommer, an evolutionary anthropologist, said: 'It's untenable to talk of dividing humans and humanoid apes because there are no clear-cut criteria - neither biological, nor mental, nor social.' Paula Stibbe, a British woman, has applied to be named Hiasl's legal guardian. She said: 'He is a colourful character with lots of energy. The least we can do for him is give him ... a future in society.' Barbara Bartl, the judge and an animal rights campaigner, has stalled proceedings until documents are provided proving Hiasl has, as his friends say, the status of an asylum-seeker, having been abducted illegally from Sierra Leone.
If Hiasl is granted human status, Martin Balluch, of the Association against Animal Factories, who has worked to bring the case, wants him to sue the vivisection laboratory. He said: 'We argue that he's a person and he's capable of owning something himself, as opposed to being owned, and that he can manage his money. This means he can start a court case against Baxter, which at the very least should mean his old age pension is secure.'
http://www.arkangelweb.org/international/austria/20070221greatapetrial.php Arkangel for Animal Liberation - London, UK
He was taken from his home in the Sierra Leone jungle in West Africa, then crated and shipped to Austria, destined for a vivisection lab 30 km East of ... Austria A world first: Great Ape trial in Austria
Are the Great Apes our blood brothers?
In a groundbreaking case at the Mödling district court, just southwest of Vienna, Austria, a judge is to rule whether a chimp deserves a legal guardian. The chimpanzee in question is called Hiasl. But is he actually a chimp or a human, biologically speaking? This is one of the questions that will be addressed during the trial.
Hiasl was only a year old in 1982 when a poacher shot his mother and sold him to an animal trader. He was taken from his home in the Sierra Leone jungle in West Africa, then crated and shipped to Austria, destined for a vivisection lab 30 km East of Vienna.
But by 1982, the CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) agreement already forbade the import of wild caught chimps, and so Hiasl and 7 other chimps were taken in by customs officers and handed over to an animal sanctuary.