Ecuador became the first country to give legal rights to wild animals. The ruling FROM the country's highest court arose from an 2019 incident when authorities appropriated a woolly monkey from its home to a zoo. The monkey, named Estrellita, was kept for 18 years as a pet by a librarian, Ana Beatriz Burbano Proao.It died a week later.The court ruled that not only did the government violate Estrellita's rights, but that Proao also violated the rights of animals when it was removed from the wild. "What makes this decision so important is that now the rights of nature can be used to benefit small `groups` or individual animals," says Harvard law professor Kristen Stilt. "That makes rights of nature a far more powerful tool than perhaps we have seen before." Environmental lawyer Hugo Echeverria said, "This verdict raises animal rights to the level of the constitution, the highest law of Ecuador."