Environmentalists seek legal rights for critically endangered jaguars in Argentina

In an emergency effort to protect the few remaining jaguars left in Argentina, environmentalist group Greenpeace has filed a lawsuit in the nation’s highest court seeking to give the big cats legal rights, including personhood.

There are approximately around 250 jaguars living in Argentina and their numbers are only dropping as deforestation in the name of big agriculture continues unabated, especially in the Chaco region where you can count the number of jaguars left on four hands.

“Only 20 jaguars remain in the Chaco region,” Greenpeace Argentina director Natalia Machain said in a statement. “Despite having been declared a National Monument, its territory is not being protected and this seriously endangers its livelihood. Accepting and promoting that nature and its species have rights – their own – is part of the struggle of humanity for the permanent extension of rights.”

The lawsuit aims to prevent extinction in the provinces of Salta, Chaco, Santiago del Estero and Formosa.

“Allow this species to continue to exist, enjoy its ecosystems, maintaining its life, health, welfare, food, freedom, reproduction and security plans for the last less than 20 vulnerable subjects,” the lawsuit says.

For too long, jaguars have lost nearly all of their former territory, severely limiting their range and ability to reproduce.

“Scientists estimate that in Argentina in the last two centuries their territory has been confined to 5% of the original area,” lead attorney Enrique Viale said. “As part of Nature, the jaguars have rights. The Law has recognized rights to companies, which are abstract entities, fictions, intangibles but – instead – until now it does not recognize rights to Nature and its species that are real, alive and tangible.”

Viale went on to argue in remarks to The Guardian that if nonliving corporations can have legal rights, jaguars should have even more rights as a living being.

“If the legal rights of inanimate corporations are recognized, why not the legal rights of a species of nature, which is very much alive,” he said. “We now want recognition of the rights of the entire species.”

Machain agrees.

“Nature’s species also have rights and the recognition of these rights is a step forward for humanity,” she said.

Deforestation is a major problem in the world today and it’s only getting worse. And jaguars are just one of up to a million species on our planet that are at risk of extinction because of humans. The court should grant legal rights to jaguars and do everything it can to make sure they are protected. They are an important part of Argentina’s natural heritage and a symbol that the people should rally around in an effort to save the environment and the wildlife that depend on it.

Featured Image: Wikimedia

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Stephen D. Foster Jr.

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