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Orangutan Sandra granted personhood settles into new Florida home

A 33-year-old orangutan granted legal personhood by a judge in Argentina is settling into new surroundings in central Florida.

Patti Ragan, director of the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, said Sandra the orangutan is “very sweet and inquisitive” and adjusting to her new home. She was born in Germany and spent 25 years at the Buenos Aires Zoo before arriving in Florida on 5 November.

“She was shy when she first arrived, but once she saw the swings, toys and grassy areas in her new home, she went out to explore,” Ragan said. “She has met her caregivers here and is adjusting well to the new climate, environment and the other great apes at the center.

She added: “This is the first time in over a decade that Sandra has had the opportunity to meet other orangutans, and she will meet them when she chooses. It is a new freedom for her, and one we are grateful to provide.”

Judge Elena Liberatori’s landmark ruling in 2015 declared that Sandra is legally not an animal, but a non-human person, thus entitled to some legal rights enjoyed by people, and better living conditions.

“With that ruling I wanted to tell society something new, that animals are sentient beings and that the first right they have is our obligation to respect them,” the judge told the Associated Press.

But without a clear alternative, Sandra remained at the antiquated zoo, which closed in 2016, until leaving for the US in late September. She was in quarantine for a month at a zoo in Kansas before arriving in Florida.

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At the center, Sandra joins 21 orangutans and 31 chimpanzees rescued or retired from circuses, stage shows and the exotic pet trade.

The case is not unlike that of an elephant in New York, where lawyers are arguing in a case currently going through the courts that the animal, Happy, is, contrary to her sunny name, being detained by the Bronx Zoo “illegally”, due to her personhood, and must be released.


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