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Argentine court says orangutan has basic human rights, frees her from captivity.

Summary: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are basic rights, and courts across the globe are tasked with upholding those unalienable rights for all people ...

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are basic rights, and courts across the globe are tasked with upholding those unalienable rights for all people within their jurisdiction.

Actually, I misspoke. Did I say "people"? I meant "primates." I definitely meant primates. Because, you see, one Argentine court has decided that not only are humans guaranteed the right to freedom, but that the basic "human" right may extend to one particular orangutan at the Buenos Aires zoo as well.

The Sumatran orangutan Sandra has spent 20 years at the zoo in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires, but a unanimous court ruling says that Sandra should be granted her freedom. The court says that Sandra is a "non-human person" who is subject to some basic human rights, and she should be free to live out her days in a nature sanctuary in Brazil.

Lawyers for the Association of Professional Lawyers for Animal Rights (AFADA) filed an appeal on Sandra's behalf in November 2013. According to, the lawyers requested a habeus corpus ruling by saying that the zoo engaged in "unjustified confinement of an animal with proven cognitive ability." They argued that Sandra had the ability to make decisions and reason, and she felt "frustrated" with her captivity.



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"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," said AFADA lawyer Paul Buompadre on the ruling.

The Buenos Aires zoo now has 10 days to appeal the ruling.

However, the Argentine court's ruling conflicts with those handed down in the United States. Two legal challenges seeking to free animals have failed, with courts in New York and California ruling that the animals in question were not subject to basic human rights.

As a result, don't expect to see a mass exodus from America's zoos quite yet. But if the "Planet of the Apes" uprising does occur, I highly suggest fleeing to Argentina. They've already starting building up the good will.

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Publication:Inside Counsel
Date:Dec 22, 2014
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