Selfie-Snapping Monkey Is Named PETA’s 2017 Person of the Year

Profile With His Groundbreaking Photos That Now Benefit Vanishing Wildlife

For Immediate Release:
December 4, 2017

Megan Wiltsie 202-483-7382

Norfolk, Va.

After his famous monkey selfie photographs launched an international discourse—and a lawsuit—about the need to extend fundamental legal rights to animals, the Indonesian free-living crested macaque Naruto has been named PETA’s Person of the Year 2017, establishing that he is someone, not something.

Naruto gained worldwide recognition and won more fans than Kim Kardashian when, in 2011, he operated a camera and took a series of photographs of himself with various facial expressions in a nature reserve in Sulawesi, Indonesia, creating his now-iconic “monkey selfies.” The debate over ownership of the photographs sparked a PETA lawsuit seeking to recognize Naruto as the legal copyright holder of the photos under U.S. copyright law. Personhood for animals immediately became a hot-topic issue among law schools and legal scholars, and the case resulted in a settlement in which 25 percent of future sales of his selfie will go toward protecting and supporting him, his community of macaques, and their Indonesian home. Since then, other wildlife photographers have pledged to do the same with regard to their subjects.

“Naruto’s historic selfie challenged the idea of who is a person and who is not and resulted in the first-ever lawsuit seeking to declare a nonhuman animal the owner of property, rather than being declared property himself,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “PETA hopes that by honoring him, Naruto will be recognized as a special person—an individual with thoughts and feelings, emotions and desires, and the ability to plan and self-reflect—as a being with personality, and as someone, not something.”

PETA—whose motto is “Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way”—notes that the number of crested macaques, who are highly intelligent, has decreased by approximately 90 percent over the last 25 years because of human encroachment into their environment, being killed by humans for eating their crops, and being trapped and slaughtered for meat.

Person of the Year T-shirts featuring Naruto are for sale at the PETA Catalog. Past award winners include Pope Francis, Oprah Winfrey, and Anjelica Huston.

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