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Sat Dec 03 19:42:05 CAT 2016

World rallies around SPCA call to get Boswell’s orangutan into a sanctuary

TMG Digital | 2016-01-29 12:26:50.0
Opal the Orangutan has spent 36 lonely years in her cage. Help her get to a sanctuary!
Image by: Freja Petersen ‏@Freja_Petersen via Twitter

Two online petitions are rallying people around the world in support of the SPCA’s campaign to compel zoo owner Brian Boswell to release Opal the Orangutan into a sanctuary after 36 years in a cage.

The Care2 petitions website has 29‚533 supporters signing up‚ with a goal of 30‚000 signatures while Change.org has 5‚854 supporters for its petition to free Opal from the KwaZulu-Natal Zoological Gardens just outside Pietermaritzburg‚ with a stated target of 7‚500.

Some of the signatories‚ including Britain‚ The Netherlands‚ Belgium and Greece as well as South Africa‚ have written messages of support.

"There comes a time when the well being of any living being supercedes the perceived monetary value this living being is 'worth' to you‚" Carolynne Parsons wrote. Kitty Porter stated: "It is inhumane. She must be sent to a safe sanctuary‚ the sooner the better for her‚ and hopefully she will have some companions. Just do it!"

The campaign has been building since the Kloof and Highway SPCA called for public support – and it is the third time the Boswell family operations have been in the news in a month.

The SPCA’s Cheri Cooke said in an open letter that Opal had never enjoyed the natural life of her species.

“Each day she is released from her sleeping cage into her daytime cell. There on a meagre patch of grass with a makeshift ‘Jungle Gym’ of poles‚ she spends every day of her life. Alone. Alone but for the people who come to stare. Her response to this heartlessly barren confinement‚ when she can take no more and has no hope of privacy or escape‚ she flings her own dung at the people watching her degradation…

“Her empty eyes see only humans who stare‚ laugh and point fingers at her. They mean no harm; they do not understand her suffering. She is alone with crowds staring. A caged tragedy.”

Cooke is campaigning for Opal to be sent to the Monkeyworld sanctuary in the UK. “They wait for her with open arms. She will be cared for by teams of experts in the field of socialising apes which have lived lives of isolated misery.”

Boswell hit back at the SPCA’s assertions‚ telling the Witness newspaper that if people thought Opal was “desperate for a friend they should send a male” to the Gardens.

“Monkey World in the UK already has 18 orangutans. They are solitary animals and the climate in the UK would be too cold for Opal‚” he was quoted as saying.

In December‚ animal rights activists protested at the zoo under the banner #BoswellMustFall condemning conditions at the zoo. This followed reports that at least one tiger – and as many as six‚ according to a local resident - was shot and killed after escaping onto a neighbouring farm.

Earlier this month‚ two owners of the controversial Brian Boswell Circus‚ as well as their elephant ringmaster‚ appeared in court for allegedly contravening the Animal Protection Act. The charges stem from an incident in December 2012 when employees were filmed allegedly beating the circus elephants and chaining them up at a school in Port Elizabeth.

The accused are Brian Boswell’s wife‚ Jane‚ who is in her 60s‚ their daughter Georgina‚ 42‚ and elephant handler and ringmaster David Marais‚ 36. They are all out on warning. The case resumes on February 17.

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