Orangutan Who Was Granted Personhood Celebrates 34th Birthday

by : Lucy Connolly on : 16 Feb 2020 16:48
sandra the orangutan 1centerforgreatapes/Instagram

An orangutan named Sandra who was granted legal personhood in a landmark ruling five years ago has just celebrated her 34th birthday.

Sandra celebrated her birthday with a special friend, a 31-year-old male orangutan named Jethro, at the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, Florida, on Friday, February 14.


Sandra has settled into her new home well after being transferred from the Buenos Aires Zoo in Argentina on November 5 last year, something which was presumably made even easier by the fact she was gifted lots of pink and red presents on her special day – in keeping with the Valentine’s Day theme.

The couple celebrated Sandra’s birthday together, attending a party complete with banners, love hearts, and gift bags emblazoned with the words: ‘Be my Valentine.’ In other words, it was absolutely adorable.

Patti Ragan, director of the Center for Great Apes, said the orangutan ‘has adjusted beautifully to her life at the sanctuary’, as per The New York Times. She said that, while Sandra was quite shy when she arrived at the Florida centre having previously lived by herself in the Buenos Aires Zoo, she has now settled in perfectly.


Ragan continued:

Sandra appeared most interested in Jethro, and our caregivers felt he was a perfect choice because of his close age, calm demeanour, and gentle nature.

Sandra still observes and follows Jethro from a distance while they are in the process of getting to know and trust each other. But they are living harmoniously in the same habitat spaces as they continue to gain confidence in their relationship.

sandra the chimpanzeecenterforgreatapes/Instagram

The ‘personhood’ case for Sandra was initiated and pursued by an animal welfare group in Argentina called the Association of Officials and Lawyers for Animal Rights (AFADA).


In the 2015 landmark ruling, Judge Elena Liberatori granted Sandra legal personhood with the right to be respected as a sentient being, with the court ruling she was not allowed to remain on exhibit in the zoo.

The ruling meant the orangutan is legally not an animal, but a non-human person, and so is entitled to some legal rights enjoyed by people and better living conditions.

However, without a clear alternative Sandra remained alone in the Buenos Aires Zoo, which closed in 2016, before being moved to the US last September – eventually arriving in Florida in November.


Thankfully she’s settling into her new surroundings and is even able to celebrate her birthday in style.

What a legend.

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Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).

Topics: Animals, Florida, orangutan


Center For Great Apes/Instagram and 2 others
  1. Center For Great Apes/Instagram


  2. The New York Times

    Orangutan Granted 'Personhood' Turns 34, Makes New Friend

  3. Center For Great Apes