In 2015, a judge in Argentina’s high court ruled that a zoo orangutan was a “non-human person” who had a right to a life with dignity.

Judge Elena Liberatori said, “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.”

Now, that very same 33-year-old orangutan has found happiness and home at a Florida sanctuary.

Sandra the orangutan was born in a zoo in Germany in 1986 before being moved to the Buenos Aires Zoo in Argentina in 1994. During her time at the South American zoo, she lived alone in a small and barren enclosure.

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After the high court’s historic ruling, however, the Buenos Aires Zoo announced that they would close and send all remaining animals to sanctuaries—including Sandra.

After the zoo began searching for the most appropriate facility for Sandra’s retirement, they eventually decided that she should go to the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, Florida because of the state’s warm climate.

Sandra arrived in the U.S. by plane last month and underwent a quarantine period at a Kansas zoo. Once she was determined to be healthy, she was sent to her new forever home at the sanctuary in Florida. To help Sandra stay at ease during the transition, her caretakers from Buenos Aires accompanied her during the entire journey.

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This new facility is an accredited sanctuary that provides a permanent home for orangutans and chimpanzees rescued or retired from the entertainment industry, research, and exotic pet trade. Over 20 rescued orangutans already live at the sanctuary.

Photo by Center for Great Apes

Since Sandra arrived in her new home she has been “calm, engaged, and interested in her new surroundings”.

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“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,” said the director of the Center for Great Apes, Patti Ragan. “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,” added Ragan. “It is a new freedom for her, and one we are grateful to provide.”

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