Orangutan, granted legal personhood, moves to FL, becomes woman

CORRECTS BYLINE TO KEITH VONSTEIN, NOT KEITH STEIN – In this photo made available Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019, by the Center for Great Apes, Sandra, a 33-year old orangutan, settles into her new home at the Center for Great Apes in in Wauchula, Fla. Sandra was granted legal personhood by a judge in Argentina. The judged ruled that Sandra is legally not an animal, but rather a non-human person, and thus entitled to rights. (Keith VonStein/Center for Great Apes via AP)

An orangutan who was granted legal personhood in a landmark 2015 ruling has moved into the Center for Great Apes in  Florida.

Judge Elena Liberatori’s ruling declared that Sandra was legally not an animal, but a non-human person.

The ruling gave the orangutan certain legal rights enjoyed by humans as well as 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,” Judge Liberatori said.

The 2015 ruling came after animal rights campaigners filed a habeas corpus petition on behalf fo the orangutan.

A Habeas Corpus document is more commonly used to challenge the legality of a person’s detention or imprisonment.

Patti Ragan, who is the director of the center in Wauchula, Florida, said Sandra is adjusting to the center, joining 21 orangutans and 31 chimpanzees who have been rescued or retired from circuses, stage shows, and the exotic pet trade.

“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,” said Ragan. “It is a new freedom for her, and one we are grateful to provide.”

The 2015 verdict was very controversial, with some arguing that it was inappropriate to compare the animal with a human.

“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,” the Buenos Aires Zoo’s head of biology, Adrian Sestelo, said in 2015.

The ruling was expected to open the door for thousands of similar cases but that does not appear to have happened at this time.

Orangutans are a part of the family Hominidae, also known as great apes along with gorillas and chimpanzees.

Furthermore, they share about 97 percent of their DNA with humans.