Ecuador’s high court has ruled that wild animals have the legal right to exist, to develop their innate instincts and to be free from cruelty, fear and disproportionate distress, reports Katie Surma for Inside climate news.
The historic ruling came in February after Ecuador’s highest court interpreted the “rights of nature“constitutional laws in a case involving a woolly monkey named Estrellita, Scientific alert Reporting by Tessa Koumoundouros. “Rights of Nature” are laws that establish the legal right of an ecosystem to exist and regenerate.
Estrellita was taken from her habitat when she was one month old and kept in a private residence for 18 years. Because owning a wild animal is illegal in Ecuador, Estrellita was seized by authorities in 2019 and placed in a zoo where she died a month later after suffering sudden cardio-respiratory arrest.
The court announced the 7-2 verdict, effectively granting rights to Estrellita, in a 57-page notice published in January. The ruling marks the country’s first application of nature’s rights to a wild animal.
Ana Beatriz Burbano Proaño, a librarian who kept Estrellita for 18 years, taught the monkey to communicate through sounds and gestures, Scientific alert reports and acclimatized the animal to the culture and traditions of the family. Burbano had filed a habeas corpus petition, a legal mechanism to determine if an individual’s detention is valid, before learning that Estrellita had died at the zoo. In the petition, Burbano asked that Estrellita be returned to his care, citing that the animal was likely in distress after being torn from its family and familiar surroundings. Later, Burbano asked the court to declare that the monkey’s rights had been violated, Inside climate news reports.
In December 2021, the case made its way through the court system to the Constitutional Court of Ecuador. Judges had to examine the scope of Ecuadorian laws on the rights of nature to determine whether animals are eligible for these rights, and whether Estrellita’s rights were violated, a statement Explain. In January 2022, the court ruled in favor of Estrellita.
In January 2022 act of decisionthe court found that the monkey’s rights were initially violated by Burbano, for removing the animal from its natural environment, and by the government, for failing to consider Estrellita’s situation or questioning whether his transfer to the zoo was appropriate, Inside climate news reports.
The court also said that the Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment should develop new rules and methods to guarantee the respect and defense of animal rights, reports Rosie Frost for EuroNews.
Ecuador is considered one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, with 26 distinguished habitat types and 20 percent of the diversity of birds on the planet. In 2008, Ecuador became the first country to recognize the rights of nature at the constitutional level, but it was unclear whether the decision covered animals.
“While the rights of nature were enshrined in the constitution, it was unclear prior to this ruling whether individual animals could benefit from the rights of nature and be considered rights holders as part of nature,” said Hugo Echeverría, an Ecuadorian environmentalist lawyer. explained in a statement. “The court said that animals are subjects of rights, protected by the rights of nature.”
Other countries, such as Canada and New Zealand as well as several cities in the United States, have treaties or local laws that provide some protection for wild animals. In November 2021, the UK recognized several invertebrates, including lobsters, octopuses and crabs, as sentient beings. However, these rights have not been enforced at the constitutional level, Scientific alert reports.
“There is a beginning of awareness that is breaking down the silos of animal law and environmental law, and this case is an important part of that development,” Kristen Stilt, a Harvard law professor, told Inside climate news.