Equador: Legal rights to wild animals

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

The ruling came after a wild monkey named Estrellita, was moved from its home to a zoo and died a week later. It was taken from the wild at one month old and kept as a pet for 18 years by librarian Ana Beatriz Burbano Proaño.

Owning wild animals is illegal in Ecuadorso the pet was seized by authorities in 2019 and after being taken to a zoo she passed away.

 Before knowing that she has died, her owner filed a habeas corpus petition - a legal mechanism to determine if the detention of an individual is valid. She asked for Estrellita to be returned to her and for the court to declare that the monkey’s rights had been violated.

Last December, thecourt ruled in favour of Ana Beatriz Burbano Proaño but also added that theanimal’s rights had been violated when it was removed from its natural habitat.

 In 2008 Ecuador became the first country in the world to recognize nature as a legal entity, enshrining the right of its people to live in a healthy environment in its constitution.

 Within the case, the court also noted that “wild species and their individuals have the right not to be hunted, fished, captured, collected, extracted, kept, retained, trafficked, traded or exchanged.

It added that these rights come from the animals’ own value, not their value to humans making it clear that animals have the power to enforce these rights in a court.

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