FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.—A local attorney’s landmark legal battle to free two lab chimps being used in research at a New York university was dealt a blow this week.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe has ruled the chimps must stay put, for now.

Steven Wise, president and chief litigator of the Nonhuman Rights Project in Coral Springs, says he plans to appeal the decision to the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court.

In a 33-page decision, Jaffe said she is bound by a previous state appellate court ruling in the case of Tommy, another New York chimp represented by Wise.

On May 27, Wise made the historic argument that Leo and Hercules – currently the property of Stony Brook University in Long Island – have fundamental rights to freedom, similar to humans, and should be released to a wildlife sanctuary in Fort Pierce.

Unlike other courts, Jaffe agreed that Wise had standing to bring the case on behalf of a chimpanzee.

Wise is also trying to win freedom for Kiko and Tommy, two New York chimps being held in what Wise calls “solitary confinement” by private owners.

His efforts are part of an international movement to establish legal rights for humans’ closest relative.

A scholar on animal rights and author of four books, Wise has appeared on the popular TED Talk forum, was profiled in a New York Times Magazine cover story last year and stars in an A.D. Pennebaker documentary recently sold to HBO titled “Unlocking the Cage.”

“(Chimps) remember what happened yesterday,” Wise says in his Ted Talk. “They can anticipate tomorrow – which is why it’s so terrible to imprison a chimpanzee, especially alone. It’s the things that we do to our worst criminals, and we do (them) to chimpanzees without even thinking about it.”

Elephants, dolphins and whales are also on Wise’s list of creatures deserving a new lease on freedom.

Jackie Mongeluzo, an animal lover from Boca Raton, said she was rooting for Wise.

“I love that these animals have a spokesman,” she said. “They can’t speak for themselves. This man has given them a voice.”