Captive orangutan has human right to freedom

2014-12-22 08:01
(Romeo Gacad, AFP)

(Romeo Gacad, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Buenos Aires - An orangutan held in an Argentine zoo can be freed and transferred to a sanctuary after a court recognised the ape as a "non-human person" unlawfully deprived of its freedom, local media reported on Sunday.

Animal rights campaigners filed a habeas corpus petition - a document more typically used to challenge the legality of a person's detention or imprisonment - in November on behalf of Sandra, a 29-year-old Sumatran orangutan at the Buenos Aires zoo.

In a landmark ruling that could pave the way for more lawsuits, the Association of Officials and Lawyers for Animal Rights (AFADA) argued the ape had sufficient cognitive functions and should not be treated as an object.

The court agreed Sandra, born into captivity in Germany before being transferred to Argentina two decades ago, deserved the basic rights of a "non-human person."

"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," the daily La Nacion newspaper quoted AFADA lawyer Paul Buompadre as saying.

Orangutan is a word from the Malay and Indonesian languages that means "forest man."

Sandra's case is not the first time activists have sought to use the habeas corpus writ to secure the release of wild animals from captivity.

A US court this month tossed out a similar bid for the freedom of 'Tommy' the chimpanzee, privately owned in New York state, ruling the chimp was not a "person" entitled to the rights and protections afforded by habeas corpus.

In 2011, the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed a lawsuit against marine park operator SeaWorld, alleging five wild-captured orca whales were treated like slaves. A San Diego court dismissed the case.

The Buenos Aires zoo has 10 working days to seek an appeal.

A spokesperson for the zoo declined to comment to Reuters. The zoo's head of biology, Adrian Sestelo, told La Nacion that orangutans were by nature calm, solitary animals which come together only to mate and care for their young.

"When you don't know the biology of a species, to unjustifiably claim it suffers abuse, is stressed or depressed, is to make one of man's most common mistakes, which is to humanize animal behaviour," Sestelo told the daily.

Read more on:    argentina  |  animals

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.