Opinion: I love animals but it seems that my country has plenty of money, like it’s one of the richest countries in the world

Posted in 23/09/2019


By Prof. Alejandra Juárez*

In a country with economic and social problems like ours it is inexplicable and shocking the money that is being spent on the move to give away our animals especially to the United States. But the most colossal thing is the expense that the city government has offered and spent on the transfer of the orangutan Sandra. In this matter there are many things that become suggestive, are not conclusive and we need to investigate and react once and for all.

Organutan Sandra case is a turning point in terms of rights. She was the first to be recognized as a “subject of rights”, a sentient being and a “non-human being”. The Judge in charge did an excellent job, but what happened and organized afterwards really scares; Sandra deserves the best and we all consider it; Sandra’s chosen destination is in the United States, the Center of Great Apes, the best center in North America. 

Until that time we all agreed and supported the Judge’s decision, but everything changed especially the economic situation of our country and we never imagined that from these transfers new businesses would emerge.Sandra’s transfer involves shipping itself and supporting her for three years, a total expense of 132,765 dollars, in current pesos $7,766,750.For a country in our situation it is a fortune, there is also another possibility that gives the same condition and that the country would get free, hence the first misunderstanding becoming some suggestive facts. That is why it is important to analyse what is happening.

For the first part of the shipment of Sandra from the CABA to the airport of Dallas,  the company Argentraider S.A won the bidding process. It’s vice president is Jorge Braun, cousin of Marcos Peña. Two companies presented the bid, Argentraider de Peña presented a larger amount, asked for $1,922,100 ($32,850) and the other, Highland company  presented $1,800,000. But despite the fact that Argentraider did not present the most economical offer, it was the winner just like in other occasions.The air company American Airlines was chosen to take Sandra to Dallas airport, and on this transfer to Dallas it will be paid $44,700 dollars ( $2,614950 pesos) , which includes tickets for carers and veterinarians, customs formalities, plus fees; added to this the special transport cage, whose cost is $152,460 ($2600 dollars), then we have a total amount of $2,767410.

The orangutan will have to perform the quarantine in a zoo in Segdwich County, to which maintenance will also have to be paid in an amount of 14,965 (dollars), that is $ 900,000. We are adding up to here $3,667410, today 62,700 Dollars. To this we must add the transfer to the sanctuary in Florida and its maintenance for three years ,whose maintenance figure is 70,500 dollars for three years –  4,230,000  pesos today – 23,500 dollars annually. 

After those three years, Sandra will be kept with donations from maybe some Argentinean and American.That is all the transfer of the Orangutan commissioned to the company of Peña’s cousin brother, maintenance in the zoo and then in the sanctuary will be 132,765 dollars, in current pesos $ 7,766,750. How are we doing? Are we able to cope with this phenomenal expense?The strange thing about this is that all the transfer bids were won by the company of Marcos Peña’s cousin, before until three years ago there were no such animal transport companies. Obviously they were created now as a new type of business. And despite the difference, the company of Peña’s cousin won again, as it did in 2018, when Argentraider competed with the company BLU Logistics Argentina, which had submitted a smaller budget for the transfer of eleven baboons residing in the Ecopark to Colombia. At that time Argentraider collected $ 1,228,400 and that same Braun company also won to move the spectacled bears (species in extinction in Argentina) to Colorado USA, where they would be castrated, charging an amount of $ 2,029,600. It is important to know in the case of lions, according to versions, Ecopark accredited the construction of the enclosure in Minnesota and would also pay maintenance part of the move. And without forgetting the design and sound image company that must always be paid to film the transfers, there are many who benefit from each transfer and are apparently new types of businesses.

The other alternative for Sandra that has been proposed is to be transferred to the Great Apes Sanctuary of Paraná, owned by Anami Institute, in Brazil, which has professional staff trained in chimpanzee and orangutan care. This Institute has achieved solvency, does not survive of donations and is in permanent contact with the USA. In this sanctuary lives the orangutan Katai, who has the same story as Sandra and could be good company for her for the rest of their lives. Besides,  the  transfer would  only take two hours to Brazil, different from 11 to USA , and the Anami Institute takes care of absolutely everything, all the transfer maintenance,  which means if would cost nothing to our country. The same already happened with the case of the chimpanzees of the Zoo of La Plata, whose expenses were paid in full by the Anami Institute.

Besides all this spending, there is something unusual, as in my possession I keep an email from Patti Ragan, director of the Sanctuary in Florida, where Sandra would go, dated from September 2018. IN it she where she states that the sanctuary has not asked for or demanded any support but has only reported the cost for the care of each orangutan. According to her textual words ,“I did not specify any amount of financial aid with Sandra’s attention. I simply reported our annual care costs at $23,500 per orangutan”. 

Considering a country “as rich” as ours, we feel like offering phenomenal sums of money; Money we are not able to spare from all the needs to invest for our fauna, independently that Sandra deserves the best. This kind of possible revival makes those of us who are on the subject of primates look very bad, as well as the US sanctuary that has not demanded such an allocation, the ones who negotiated are not serious people, but ones without scruples.

*Project Director Gran Simio Argentina; Director of the Argentine Center for Rescue, Rehabilitation and Conservation of Primates

Sources (in Spanish):–5-millones-en-liberar-a-Sandra-la-orangutana–20190626-0043.html