In Ecuador, there’s a quiet but vital court case going on. On the one side, there are huge mining corporations and historic mining concessions. On the other side, representing the rights of nature, are two frogs.
These two frog species form the base of a constitutional challenge that could completely overturn mining concessions across Ecuador. By their very existence, they could protect thousands of other species living in the region and set an important precedent.
What rights does nature hold?
In 2008, Ecuador completed a new constitution with a ground-breaking addition. ‘Nature’ was recognized as a legal entity with associated rights, as well as the addition of the right of people to live in a healthy environment.
This is significant – Ecuador is hugely biodiverse, with huge tropical rainforests stretching across the Andes. These are known as cloud forests because they are higher and cooler than typical rainforests, meaning that the rain sits as a permanent low cloud cover. And they are even more biodiverse than the Amazon rainforest. Sadly, Western Ecuador had already lost 95% of its forests by the late 90s. With habitats disappearing and fragmenting at an alarming rate, Ecuador is now home to the second largest number of endangered species in the world (Wildlife Conservation Society).
Spectacled bears and many, many more
Many of these at-risk species are found nowhere else in the world. These include the longnose harlequin and the confusing rocket frog, black-and-chestnut eagle, and the brown-headed spider monkey. But one of the species most typical of the Tropical Andes is the spectacled, or Andean, bear.
Spectacled bears are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, but their decline has far-reaching impacts on the whole ecosystem. As they eat mostly fruits, leaves, and plants, they spread seeds widely through their range, helping new plants to grow and regenerating the ecosystem. They are impressive climbers and use this skill to rest, get at better snack options, and avoid predators.
Rainforest Concern has been protecting crucial ecosystems for 28 years. They work with local communities to preserve rainforest habitats and the incredible species that live there. They have been working in Ecuador for 26 years, establishing the Neblina Cloud Forest Reserve in 2002 to preserve cloud forest in one of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots.
They have been working closely with DECOIN, an organization based in the area which is helping to bring legal challenges to historic mining concessions. This is a slow process, with a process of cases and appeals escalating until they reach Ecuador’s Constitutional Court. If the frog’s case is successful, this would set a vital precedent: that the rights of endangered species trump corporate interests.
How can we help?
Thanks to our clients and our team, we are proud to donate 1% this month to Rainforest Concern. Our donation will support the legal challenge brought against the Llurimagua mining project by local communities and DECOIN. We hope to see legal protections for nature and endangered species strengthened further within Ecuador by this judgement.
But it’s not only large organizations that can put pressure on this campaign – we can all make a difference. You can donate or fundraise for Rainforest Concern, become a member to see regular updates, sponsor an acre of rainforest, or just use your voice to put pressure on the Ecuadorian courts and the mining companies. Speaking to friends and family helps to spread the word and show support.
Thank you for choosing LEX and helping to give our most endangered species more time.