Brazilian judge rules elephant 'not a commodity'

Judge rules that sanctuary does not have to pay import tax on rescued elephant because she is a 'guest', not a commodity.


Ramba, a female elephant, arrived at Santuário de Elefantes do Brasil (Brazil Elephants Sanctuary) after a 73 hour trip all the way from Chile. The groundbreaking decision of a Brazilian judge was the icing on the cake, as if the news of Ramba' freedom from decades of captivity and mistreatment was not good enough.

A few days before Ramba’s transfer began, Judge Leonísio Salles de Abreu Junior, from the first Civil Court at Chapada dos Guimarães prohibited the local government to charge the sanctuary R$ 50,000 (approximately US$13,000) - a tax on the movement of goods known as ICMS. The reason presented was as simple as this: Ramba is not a thing to be imported.

The judge argued that, in practical terms, Ramba was not acquired by the sanctuary nor does she belong to it in patrimonial terms, so she cannot be considered as a commodity nor good purchased for importation purposes.

Non-human rights

The judge pointed out that Ramba's position, far from being a commodity, is now that of a guest who seeks a new home far from the harm that human evil has already caused her.

Usually the taxation on goods is charged on any kind of animal transfer from one place to another within the country, which makes Abreu Junior’s decision an important pivot and a huge contribution to the efforts of lawyers who work on the recognition of non-human rights all over the world.

The Judge also added an animal cruelty perspective to the unprecedented decision: “It cannot be forgotten that the collection of the tax would cause too much suffering for Ramba, enhanced by the immense physical and emotional stress caused by air transport."

Ramba is 52 years old and had been living in a small barn at Rancágua Park Safari in Chile since 2012. In fact, the move to the safari itself was a Judicial conquest. Ramba had been being exploited in circuses for more than 30 years in Chile and Argentina.

The conditions at the barn were obviously not good enough - she was alone in a small area, left to deal with the harsh Chilean winter. After a few years of negotiation and group effort of local NGO Ecópolis, Global Sanctuary for Elephants (GSE) and the Brazilian sanctuary, Ramba’s transfer to a peaceful life in an adequate space alongside other elephants was made possible.

The news from the sanctuary could not be better. "Rambita" is already sharing her living space with Rana and Maia, another guest of the sanctuary, and has approached the new friend with a warm welcome. She is also enjoying deserved mud and sand baths and her skin is with a healthy reddish tone.

Stay tuned for more information on Ramba by following the SEB Facebook page

This Author 

Jaqueline B. Ramos is the communication manager at GAP Project International and journalist at Ambiente-se Comunicação

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