Orangutan granted 'personhood' settles into new Florida home

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.

WAUCHULA, Fla. (AP) — A 33-year-old orangutan granted legal personhood by a judge in Argentina is settling into her new surroundings at the Center for Great Apes in central Florida.

Patti Ragan, director of the center in Wauchula, Florida, says Sandra is "very sweet and inquisitive" and adjusting to her new home. She was born in Germany and spent 25 years at the Buenos Aires Zoo before arriving in Florida on Nov. 5.

"She was shy when she first arrived, but once she saw the swings, toys, and grassy areas in her new home, she went out to explore," Ragan said. "She has met her caregivers here and is adjusting well to the new climate, environment, and the other great apes at the Center. 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. It is a new freedom for her, and one we are grateful to provide."

Judge Elena Liberatori's landmark ruling in 2015 declared that Sandra is legally not an animal, but a non-human person, thus entitled to some legal rights enjoyed by people, and 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," she told The Associated Press.

But without a clear alternative, Sandra remained at the antiquated zoo, which closed in 2016, until leaving for the U.S. in late September. She was in quarantine for a month at the Sedgwick County Zoo in Kansas before arriving in Florida.

At the center, Sandra joins 21 orangutans and 31 chimpanzees rescued or retired from circuses, stage shows and the exotic pet trade.

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