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Argentine court weighs whether an orangutan deemed a 'non-human person' can be moved to a sanctuary

Friday, May 22, 2015 - 02:13

A court in Argentina is set to decide if Sandra, a 29-year-old orangutan legally recognised as a ''non-human person,'' should be released from the Buenos Aires zoo to live the rest of her life in freedom. Sharon Reich reports.

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The fate of an orangutan named Sandra is being decided by a court in Argentina. Last December, another court granted the 29-year-old some legal human rights, in a world first, including the right to live out her days in freedom. However, now the case is back in court where biologists and other experts say Sandra isn't equipped to be released into the wild ... because once there, she would not know how to care for herself. The Buenos Aires zoo's chief biologist, Adrian Sestelo, explains that Sandra's presence could create complications for the species in the wild. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) BUENOS AIRES ZOO'S CHIEF BIOLOGIST, ADRIAN SESTELO, SAYING: "Sandra is the daughter of both Borneo and Sumatra orangutans. She's a hybrid. As a hybrid you have to consider the species in wildlife. You can't release a hybrid animal because you would end up hurting the species, not helping it. So you have to think of global conservation and not just of this individual. An individual which, at any rate, has never been in the wild. You would end up harming her because she is unaware of her predators, she doesn't know how to find food, she doesn't know how to prepare a nest in a free environment. So ... in fact, you could end up damaging the entire species by setting her free." While the court deliberates, Sandra remains at the Buenos Aires zoo's indoor and outdoor enclosures. Andres Gil Dominguez, an animal rights lawyer from the group petitioning for Sandra's release, compares her existence to being incarcerated. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) LAWYER FROM THE GROUP, LAWYERS FOR ANIMAL RIGHTS (AFADA), ANDRES GIL DOMINGUEZ, SAYING: "A zoo is like a prison. It would be the same if they said a human being in captivity is doing great, he is being taken care of, he is being well-fed, but deprived of his freedom. It wouldn't be justifiable. We're looking at the same thing." The court has many factors to consider, including whether Sandra could withstand a journey thousands of miles, the condition of her general health, her ability to adapt to a new habitat and what it might cost to transport her. That sum could be more than $150,000 dollars (USD).

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Argentine court weighs whether an orangutan deemed a 'non-human person' can be moved to a sanctuary

Friday, May 22, 2015 - 02:13