Argentinian court decides if keeping orangutan in zoo is a human rights violation

Sandra the orangutan has been defined as a cognitive 'non-human subject'

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An Argentinian orangutan could be released from Buenos Aires Zoo, after being permitted legal representation on the grounds that she is a ‘non-human subject'.

Court proceedings, pertaining to the release of Sandra the female orangutan from Buenos Aires Zoo, have re-started in the capital this week.

The Association of Professional Lawyers for Animal Rights (AFADA) is calling for Buenos Aires Zoo to release the ape on the grounds that keeping her in a zoo is a form of mistreatment.

Orangutans in Kalimantan

The orangutan has been a resident of Buenos Aires Zoo for 21 years and: "is the first great ape to have legal representation in a criminal case in Argentina," according to Pablo Buompadre, Director of AFADA director.

"What we want, through whatever path necessary, is the release of Sandra from the sanctuary, and her right to freedom of movement and a dignified life is respected," he added.

At the end of last month, an Argentinian judge ruled that AFADA could become a plaintiff in the case, since the ape is: "is de facto not competent".

In addition, the court suggested that her legal representation was "necessary and required" because the animal's well-being "might be damaged by human mistreatment," it has been reported.

This week’s proceedings follow a high profile court case back in late 2014, when the AFADA filed allegations of mistreatment and ‘illegal deprecation of liberty’ against Buenos Aires Zoo.

The court then concluded that Sandra was a cognitive ‘non-human subject’ who was not to be defined as a passive ‘thing’, according to the Buenos Aires Herald.

According to Mr Buompadre, this week’s hearing highlights a shift in the way animal rights cases are approached, and in particular the new focus on animals as sentient beings.

Buenos Aires Zoo is currently renovating Sandra’s enclosure, following vets’ recommendations that the enclosure was in need of "environmental enrichment".