Wild animals in Ecuador now have legal rights, thanks to a monkey named Estrellita

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A landmark court ruling led Ecuador to become the first country in the world to grant legal rights to wild animals.

The decision came after a woolly monkey was moved from his home to a zoo and died a week later. The monkey, named Estrellita, was captured from the wild when it was one month old and kept as a pet for 18 years by librarian Ana Beatriz Burbano Proaño.

Owning wild animals is illegal in Ecuador. The animal was therefore seized by the authorities in 2019 and after being taken to a zoo, it died.

Before knowing she was dead, her landlord filed a petition for habeas corpus – a legal mechanism to determine if an individual’s detention is valid. She demanded that Estrellita be returned to her and that the court declare that the monkey’s rights had been violated.

Last December, the court ruled in favor of Ana Beatriz Burbano Proaño but also added that the animal’s rights were violated when it was removed from its natural habitat.

“The verdict elevates animal rights to the level of the constitution, Ecuador’s highest law,” said Ecuadorian environmental lawyer Hugo Echeverría.

In 2008, Ecuador became the first country in the world to recognize nature as a legal entity, enshrining its people’s right to live in a healthy environment in its constitution. Echeverría adds that while the rights of nature were already part of the constitution, it was not clear whether individual wild animals could benefit from them.

“The Court declared that animals are subjects of rights, protected by the rights of nature.”

It is believed to be the first time the Nature Rights Act has been enforced in court.

What does this mean for wildlife in Ecuador?

In the case, the court also noted that “wildlife and its individuals have the right not to be hunted, fished, captured, collected, extracted, preserved, preserved, trafficked, traded or traded.”

He added that these rights stem from the self-worth of animals, not their value to humans, making it clear that animals have the power to enforce these rights in court.

Also included was a call for the Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment to create more rules and procedures to ensure the constitutional rights of wild animals are respected.

Colombia, New Zealand, PanamaChile and Mexico have also granted legal protection of naturewhether through their constitution or their judicial system.

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