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CLARIN

Do Elephants Have The Right To File A Lawsuit Against Their Zoo?

Animal rights activists in Argentina are testing the limits of democratic rights on behalf of elephants they say are being mistreated at the Buenos Aires Zoo.

At the Buenos Aires Zoo
At the Buenos Aires Zoo

BUENOS AIRES — Ever heard the one about the elephant and his lawyer? In a landmark lawsuit that aims to "grant rights' to animals, an Argentine NGO is taking the capital's zoo to court for the cruel treatment it says it has inflicted on three of its elephants. The action followed a groundbreaking 2014 ruling by a city court that recognized Sandra, an orangutan that had spent 20 years in the city's zoo in deplorable conditions, as a "non human subject" with rights that included not being mistreated.

This time, the city's environmental court has accepted that the Association of Civil Servants and Attorneys for the Rights of Animals (AFADA) can represent the elephants, identifying the animals as potential victims of abuse that are "incapable of exercizing their rights alone, which makes action by an attorney necessary." This would be the first such ruling in Argentina recognizing people — in this current case, an NGO — as legal representatives of animals.

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Ideas

Artificial Satellite Pollution, Perils For Biodiversity In Space And On Earth

Exploiting space resources and littering it with satellite and other anthropogenic objects is endangering the ecosystem of space, which also damages the earth and its creatures below.

Image of the small satellite NanoRacks-Remove Debris satellite deployed into space by the ISS

Thomas Lewton

Outer space isn’t what most people would think of as an ecosystem. Its barren and frigid void isn’t exactly akin to the verdant canopies of a rainforest or to the iridescent shoals that swim among coral cities. But if we are to become better stewards of the increasingly frenzied band of orbital space above our atmosphere, a shift to thinking of it as an ecosystem — as part of an interconnected system of living things interacting with their physical environment — may be just what we need.

Last month, in the journal Nature Astronomy, a collective of 11 astrophysicists and space scientists proposed we do just that, citing the proliferation of anthropogenic space objects. Thousands of satellites currently orbit the Earth, with commercial internet providers such as SpaceX’s Starlink launching new ones at a dizzying pace. Based on proposals for projects in the future, the authors note, the number could reach more than a hundred thousand within the decade. Artificial satellites, long a vital part of the space ecosystem, have arguably become an invasive species.

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