Remember Sandra the Orangutan? A couple of years ago, the courts declared her a “non-human person” and granted her basic human rights. Well, sadly Sandra’s still living in a cage, but fellow ape Cecilia might have a bit more luck in the coming months.
In an unprecedented ruling, a Mendoza judge has ordered that Cecilia the Chimpanzee be moved from Mendoza’s zoo to the Sorocaba ape sanctuary in Brazil and declared her “subject to non-human rights”.
The verdict has come about after the Association of Officials and Lawyers for Animal Rights (Afada) presented a writ of habeas corpus before the Third Court of Guarantees, presided over by Judge María Alejandra Mauricio. Pablo Buompadre, president of Afada, explained to Télam that Cecilia has been living alone in the zoo since the deaths of her companions Charlie and Xuxa. Her current living conditions, in a concrete cell, do not adhere to requirements for “animal welfare” and cause her “great stress” — not really surprising, right?
In Brazil, on the other hand, Cecilia will be able to leave behind those lonely days of moping in her small cage. She’ll be in the company of other apes (you can get to know them too on the sanctuary’s website!) and receive specialized care in a habitat adapted to her needs. The judge’s decision indicated that “Cecilia’s right to live in an environment appropriate to her species should be preserved” and that she should be transferred to the sanctuary in São Paulo “before the beginning of autumn”.
Judge Mauricio has clarified to Los Andes, “We’re not talking about the civil rights enshrined in the Civil Code, but instead the species’ own rights: to development, to life in their natural habitat.”
Having given Cecilia something to rejoice about, the judge also considered the chimpanzee’s zoo-mates in her verdict. She requested that members of the Mendoza Legislature “provide the relevant authorities with the necessary legal tools required to bring an end to the grave situation of captivity that sees the zoo animals living in unsuitable conditions — the African elephant, the Asian elephants, lions, tigers, brown bears, among others, and all of those exotic species that don’t belong in the geographical and climatic environment that is present in the province of Mendoza.”
In her ruling, the judge also cited the great philosopher Immanuel Kant, the writer Anatole France, Buddha and Gandhi. According to La Nación, she quoted Kant’s “We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” Hits you right in the feels, that one.