Tribal leader calls for recognizing whales as people — RT World News

New Zealand's indigenous Maori king has urged marine mammals to be given inherent human rights

New Zealand's indigenous Maori king has signed an “Ocean Declaration” calling for whales to be given legal personality as part of a plan to protect them, AFP reported on Thursday.

The Declaration is said to recognize mammals as legal persons with the inherent right to freedom of movement, natural behavior and the expression of their unique cultures. This announcement was made with the aim of helping whales restore their depleted numbers.

“Our ancestors’ song is becoming weaker, and their habitat is under threat, which is why we must act now.” King Tuhetia Putatao Te Chirohero VII was quoted as saying.

This was echoed by Supreme Chief Travel Tu Ariki, who said: “We can no longer turn a blind eye. Whales play a vital role in the health of the entire ocean ecosystem… We must act urgently to protect these magnificent creatures before it is too late.”

Whales have traditionally had cultural significance for Māori as supernatural beings and as signs of spiritual growth. Some tribes believe that the mammals are descendants of Tangaroa, the god of the ocean.

Whales are some of the largest mammals on Earth, with blue whales reaching lengths of up to 30.5 meters (100 feet) and weighing up to 200 tons. Many species are threatened with extinction.

The move to give whales a personality would not be without precedent. In 2017, New Zealand passed a groundbreaking law granting character status to the Whanganui River and Mount Taranaki volcano, both important to the Māori people.

Maori are New Zealand's second largest ethnic group and currently make up about 17% of the country's total population, or about 900,000 people.

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