Full Case Name:  Causa Penal No. 15241-2022-00006

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Country of Origin:  Ecuador Court Name:  Corte Provincial de Justica de Napo - Tribunal de Garantias Penales Primary Citation:  Causa Penal No. 15241-2022-00006 Date of Decision:  Tuesday, August 9, 2022 Judge Name:  Katherine Rosales Almeida
Summary: Following the Estrellita case (Constitutional Court decision No. 253-20-JH/22), in 2022, the owner of "Cuqui Brown," a two-fingered sloth filed a habeas corpus petition following his seizure by the authorities. In this case, the court denied the habeas corpus and held that the plaintiff violated "Cuqui Brown's" rights established in Estrellita's case.
Documents:  PDF icon Cuqui Brown-Spanish.pdf (7.85 MB)

In January 2022, the authorities executed a search order in the plaintiff's restaurant, which resulted in the seizure of the sloth. Cuqui Brown was relocated to Puyo's "Yanacocha" Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. In her habeas corpus, the plaintiff stated that "Cuqui" was raised by the family since he was one month old after his "biological mother" was killed by a feline on their property. It was common for the family to take the sloth to their restaurant, where they often took and posted pictures of him. As a result of the family's frequent postings on social media, the authorities became aware that private individuals were keeping a wild animal, which is illegal in Ecuador. In her habeas corpus petition, the plaintiff relied on the decision issued by the Constitutional Court concerning "Estrellita," the woolly monkey, where the court held that animals were subjects of rights protected by the rights of nature. The plaintiff argued that in that case, the government's violation of "Estrellita's" rights had resulted in "Estrellita's" death. The plaintiff asked the court to order the authorities to return "Cuqui" to her custody, so she could provide the care and protection she had always given him. The plaintiff alleged that "Cuqui Brown" was part of his family and that she loved him as she saw Cuqui as her own child. Cuqui was raised on milk and given bread and coffee as an adult. He was overweight and had teeth, gum, and coat issues. His nails were unkempt, and he did not know how to claim trees and find food.

In its reasoning, this court stated that the constitutional court in Estrellita's case did not conclude that humans have rights over wild animals, but rather that wild animals have their own rights as they are part of nature, that is, at the same time, subject of rights as well. The court concluded that the interpretation of Estrellita's case by the plaintiff is erroneous by stating that wild animals have the right not to be captured, not to be taken from their habitat, and the right to be reintroduced into their natural habitat and not to be "domesticated and obligated to assimilate human characteristics or appearances for the convenience or benefit of humans." Furthermore, the court stated that this right ensures that wild animals are not the object of humanization processes. On the contrary, the decision in Estrellita's case directs the government and judges to protect nature and its inhabitants and recognize their rights. In applying Estrellita's decision to the present case, the court concluded that it is the court's responsibility "to recognize that the sloth had and has the right not to be taken from his natural habitat, and the right to be returned to it promptly." Cuqui has the right not to be domesticated, to not be integrated into a human environment, and to not be subjected to a process to turn him into a "pet." Cuqui also has the right not to be exhibited to tourists and customers at the plaintiff's restaurant, not just because of his intrinsic rights, but also due to the danger of spread of zoonotic diseases. Therefore, all the actions Cuqui was subjected to under the plaintiff's care did not constitute rights as part of nature, but to the contrary, they violated them.

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