An orangutan will begin her new life in Florida with the same legal rights as humans.
Lawyers won a landmark appeal for the orangutan in 2014, arguing she was being detained in the Buenos Aires zoo illegally, according to a 2014 BBC report.
Attorneys for Argentina’s Association of Professional Lawyers for Animal Rights (Afada) said “Sandra” was a “person” in the philosophical, not biological sense. They argued she was in a situation of illegal deprivation of freedom as a “non-human person.”
The case hung on whether the animal was considered a “thing” or a “person”. The ruling found her to be Argentina’s first “nonhuman person, with the right to liberty.”
Judge Elena Liberatori – who has a picture of Sandra in her office – told AP news agency she wanted her ruling to send a message: “That animals are sentient beings and that the first right they have is our obligation to respect them.”
Following the ruling, Sandra remained on the site of the zoo, although the facility closed in 2016.
An Argentine court approved her transfer to Florida's Center for Great Apes in 2017, though her journey was delayed by applications for US permits, according to a September 27, 2019 BBC report.
The 100-acre sanctuary is home to chimpanzees and orangutans which have been freed from circuses, labs, zoos and private collections. Michael Jackson's former pet chimpanzee, Bubbles, is among several famous residents.
The question, “where does it end?” is answered by Paul Buompadre, an attorney for Afada, who was quoted as saying, “This opens the way not only for other Great Apes, but also for other sentient beings which are unfairly and arbitrarily deprived of their liberty in zoos, circuses, water parks and scientific laboratories.”
One could easily add, “in private homes as pets, in stables, companion animal and seeing eye dog training facilities, and ultimately, of course, in the wild as prey for human hunters.”