- The Washington Times - Monday, December 22, 2014

A 29-year-old orangutan named Sandra is a “non-human person” with a right to freedom and will be released from the zoo where she is being held, an Argentine court has ruled.

The Association of Officials and Lawyers for Animal Rights (AFADA) filed a habeas corpus petition — a document typically used to challenge the legality of a person’s imprisonment — in November on behalf of the ape at the Buenos Aires zoo, Reuters reported.

They argued Sandra had sufficient cognitive functions and should not be treated as an object, Reuters said.

The court agreed in an unprecedented ruling that Sandra 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,” AFADA lawyer Paul Buompadre told the daily La Nacion newspaper, Reuters reported.

The zoo’s head of biology, Adrian Sestelo, told La Nacion that it is a mistake for activists to “humanize animal behavior.”

“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 behavior,” he said, Reuters reported.

The ruling could open the door for future lawsuits, as this is not the first time activists have sought to use the habeas corpus writ for captive animals.

Earlier this month, an appeals court in New York state tossed out a similar bid for the freedom of a privately owned chimpanzee named Tommy, Reuters reported.

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