April 13, 2024

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New Zealand Maori King demands legal personality for whales

New Zealand Maori King demands legal personality for whales

WELLINGTON (AFP) – The king of New Zealand's Maori tribe called on Thursday for whales to be given the same legal rights as people to protect these sacred and vulnerable creatures.

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Kiingi Tuheitia Potatau te Wherowhero VII said majestic marine mammals must have inherent human rights to enjoy a healthy environment to allow their populations to recover.

“The sound of our ancestors' singing has weakened and their habitats are threatened, so we must act now,” King Duhaithia said in a public statement.

New Zealand has passed legislation giving legal status to natural entities such as rivers and mountains considered important to Maori.

Mt Taranaki Volcano and the Wanganui River in New Zealand's North Island are considered spiritually important ancestors by Māori. They were granted “legal personality” status by the New Zealand Parliament in 2017.

That status has been implemented to stop or modify development plans and to force consultation with local communities.

Giving equal status to whales would be “a blanket for our tanga (treasure), our ancestors – the whales,” said King Duheitia.

The report was issued jointly with Travel to Ariki, a senior leader of the neighboring Cook Islands.

Both leaders argue that indigenous knowledge must be combined with science for a “more holistic approach” to whale conservation.

They added that the creation of marine protected areas would be an “important” step.

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