Great Ape Protection

Animal Rights

Animal-Rights - PopiApes and the Beginning of Animal Rights

Many date the beginning of the modern animal rights movement to 1975 and the publication of Animal Liberation by Australian philosopher Peter Singer. In hindsight, one reviewer called the book, "A reasoned plea for the humane treatment of animals that galvanized the animal-rights movement the way the Rachel Carson's Silent Spring drew activists to environmentalism."

One of our orangutan residents, Popi, was at the center of a high-profile lawsuit that became the first animal rights legal case to raise critical questions about the treatment of great apes in entertainment.

For over 20 years, Popi was featured in various nightclub acts, including the famous “Lido de Paris” floor show at the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas, along with several other young orangutans. During this time, a performer secretly filmed the trainer with the apes backstage. The performer sent the tape to the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), who released it to Entertainment Tonight (ET). The story went national July 27, 1989 and public outcry ensued. A lawsuit was brought against the trainer for alleged physical and emotional abuse of Popi and the other orangutans in the show.

At the end of the lawsuit against her owner, Popi and the other orangutans were sent to another trainer where she remained for several years until she was moved to the Great Ape Trust in Iowa. When the Great Ape Trust downsized, the Center for Great Apes accepted Popi, who arrived at the sanctuary in January of 2012.

Happily, now in her 40s Popi maintains a sweet and gentle nature. She is very smart and understands an amazing amount of English. Popi enjoys a wide range of enrichment activities and is thriving at Center for Great Apes. Like all of our apes, you can adopt Popi and help ensure she continues to receive the lifetime of quality care that she deserves.