For the first time, Ecuador’s Constitutional Court has recognized the legal rights of nonhuman animals.
Estrellita, a woolly monkey, was the catalyst. She was rescued from the wild as a youngster and raised as a pet for 18 years with librarian Ana Beatriz Burbano Proao.
Estrellita was apprehended by authorities in 2019. She was sent to the San Martn de Baos Zoo, where she died a month later. Because it is forbidden in Ecuador to keep wild animals as pets, the monkey was transferred.
Ecuador approved a law in 2017 to protect wild animals from the pet trade. And it’s not without cause. Animals often suffer greatly during capture, transit, and ultimately lengthy imprisonment in the exotic animal pet trade. It also has negative consequences for the ecology and wild animal populations.
Proao filed a habeas corpus lawsuit last year, oblivious to the fact that Estrellita had died, in an attempt to reclaim the animal. This is a legal option for challenging unjustified detention.
The Case of Estrellita
Ecuador was the first country in the world to establish “rights of nature” in legislation in 2008. The landmark decision means that the Ecuadorian Constitution now recognizes ecosystems’ right to exist and thrive.
For the first time, the court concluded in Estrellita’s case that nature’s rights may extend to individual wild animals, that wild creatures had rights, and that Estrellita’s rights had been infringed (both when she was poached from the wild, and when she was forcibly moved to a zoo).
The decision is noteworthy because it implies that the same technique can be used in other instances involving wild animals in the future. “This verdict raises animal rights to the level of the constitution, the highest law of Ecuador,” said environmental lawyer Hugo Echeverra.
“While rights of nature were enshrined in the constitution, it was not clear prior to this decision whether individual animals could benefit from the rights of nature and be considered rights holders as a part of nature… The Court has stated that animals are subject of rights protected by rights of nature,” he added.
Source: “Ecuador Court Recognizes The Legal Rights Of Animals For The First Time” by Plant Based News
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