BY MARC WALKER
A judge has ruled that a zoo chimpanzee is a "being" with "non- human rights " in a landmark animal welfare case.
Cecilia, in her 30s, has been kept alone in a concrete enclosure for years at the shabby Mendoza Zoo in Argentina after the death of two of her mates.
But after complaints from a Spanish visitor, sparking a two-year legal wrangle, Judge María Alejandra Mauricio ruled Cecilia be freed and transferred to a sanctuary in Brazil.
Judge Mauricio said non-human creatures possessed rights related to their "animal essence" .
She said: "We're not talking about the civil rights enshrined in the Civil Code, but instead the species' own rights to development, to life in their natural habitat."
Cecilia will be moved to the Great Ape Project's sanctuary in Brazil, where the chimp will be able to socialize with other chimpanzees and live in humane conditions.
She was popular with visitors to Mendoza Zoo, which is notorious for keeping its residents cooped up in cages, but had been left alone with only a blanket for cover.
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Her only companions Charlie and Xuxa died some years ago, leaving sad Cecilia to mope around her pen alone.
The court case came after Pedro Pozas Terrados, who runs a chimp sanctuary for former circus and zoo chimps, visited Mendoza Zoo in September 2014.
He launched a bid to free Cecilia and worked with the Great Ape Project and the Association of Officials and Lawyers for Animal Rights (AFADA) to get the lonesome chimp to a sanctuary.
Animal rights activists argued her confinement without fellow chimps was unlawful and the grubby conditions were affecting Cecilia's health.
Celebrating the verdict, Mr Pozas Terrados said: "This landmark judgement supports our struggle to consider animals rights and change their futures."
Mendoza Zoo is currently undergoing a refit with the support of the Argentinian government.
It previously hit the headlines after an outcry over the appalling conditions in which Arturo the polar bear was living in.
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