Zoo Chimp Has Legal Rights, Says Judge in Argentina

The country's controversial Mendoza Zoo is told it must transfer a chimpanzee named Cecilia to a primate sanctuary.

A chimpanzee named Cecilia will be transferred from her home at Argentina's controversial Mendoza Zoo to a primate sanctuary, after a judge in the country ruled that the animal has legal rights and should be moved to improve her quality of life.

Cecilia had been living alone in a barren concrete enclosure, her living conditions earning the ire of animal rights activists. The Association of Officials and Lawyers for Animal Rights (AFADA) and The Great Ape Project filed a writ of habeus corpus (the reporting of unlawful detainment) in the Argentina court system on Cecilia's behalf, alleging unlawfulness in her treatment.

Judge María Alejandra Mauricio, agreeing with the activists, called the chimp a "non-human person" and said the primate "is a subject of law."

"We're not talking about civil rights enshrined in the Civil Code," the judge told Los Andes. "We're talking about the species' own rights - development and life in their natural habitat."

Her decision mandates that the chimp be moved to the Great Primates Sanctuary of Sorocaba.

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The Mendoza Zoo - site of more than 60 animal deaths in recent times - was the site of a previous battle over its animals' living conditions. It was home to a polar bear named Arturo, whose stark living conditions sparked fears for the enormous animal's physical and emotional well being. Environmentalists had worked for a number of years to win the bear a home in the colder Canadian climate. But Arturo died in July, before any such move could take place.

AFADA will be in charge of Cecelia's move.

"The Habeas Corpus recognition means that the animals are not things anymore," said Pablo Buompadre, president of AFADA. "We think that legal recognition is a very important step to assist in the release of other animals, beginning with Cecilia, whose species is the most similar to humans."

This is not the first time primate rights have been weighed in court proceedings in the country. Argentina courts in 2014 ruled in favor of a move for an orangutan named Sandra. In a case involving a Buenos Aires zoo, the court agreed with an AFADA writ of habeus corpus alleging that Sandra, also termed a non-human person, was "suffering an unwarranted confinement."

Hat tip: The Independent

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