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Sandra The Orangutan And Her Human Rights

Buenos Aires Zoo has yet another high-profile resident, in addition to Arturo the depressed polar bear.

The Association of Professional Lawyers for Animal Rights (AFADA) will soon make their case in court on behalf on Sandra the shy Sumatran orangutan, and they will use the habeas corpus law to argue that the great ape has been illegally detained and deprived of her dignity and liberty.

Sandra was born in captivity in Germany and transferred to the zoo in Argentina, where she has been living for the past two decades. Her enclosure is currently being renovated on the advice of vets who recommend more environmental enrichment. Activists argue that her shyness is a sign of depression, this others have argued that shy behaviour is typical of orangutans.

A court ruling in December granted Sandra the possibility of limited human rights as a “non-human person” because she has cognitive abilities. An Argentinian judge is set to rule this week whether or not Sandra’s human rights are infringed by her captivity in the zoo, and the judge will also consider whether her restricted freedom is a form of maltreatment.

If the judge rules in favour of Sandra’s release, she could be transferred to an animal sanctuary, which would offer her more freedom, though it is unlikely she will be released into the wild, having never set foot in the Sumatran jungle before.

Sandra will not be appearing in court, obviously, but I will keep you updated of developments. These are exciting times in the animal rights movement – Sandra’s possible release could pave the way for other primates to be granted legal personhood. I recently blogged about Hercules and Leo, two chimpanzees fighting for their human rights.

You can read more about the Nonhuman Rights Project here.

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