News / Africa

Wildlife Advocates: Religious Leaders Vital to Endangered Species

A rhino in Nairobi National Park, Kenya, September 20, 2012. (J. Craig/VOA)
A rhino in Nairobi National Park, Kenya, September 20, 2012. (J. Craig/VOA)
Jill Craig
In an attempt to curb the slaughter of endangered species across Africa, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) have put together a consortium of religious leaders to confront poachers and people who buy products derived from the animals they kill.
 
The WWF calls the illegal wildlife trade today’s biggest threat to the survival of many endangered species. In 2011, the organization reports, Africa saw the highest rates of animal killings in more than 20 years and the largest-scale illegal-ivory seizures ever recorded — equivalent to the tusks of more than 4,000 dead elephants.
 
Representatives of the Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist faiths pray for Africa's wildlife at the historic Ivory Burning Site in Nairobi National Park, Kenya, September 20, 2012. (J. Craig/VOA)Representatives of the Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist faiths pray for Africa's wildlife at the historic Ivory Burning Site in Nairobi National Park, Kenya, September 20, 2012. (J. Craig/VOA)
x
Representatives of the Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist faiths pray for Africa's wildlife at the historic Ivory Burning Site in Nairobi National Park, Kenya, September 20, 2012. (J. Craig/VOA)
Representatives of the Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist faiths pray for Africa's wildlife at the historic Ivory Burning Site in Nairobi National Park, Kenya, September 20, 2012. (J. Craig/VOA)
In countries that are home to endangered animals such as elephants, rhinos and tigers, rule of law is often weak, law enforcement spotty, and corruption rife. The WWF and ARC have partnered with Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist and traditional faith leaders from across Africa to unite against poachers.

Broad reach, influence
 
According to the 2007 Atlas of Religion, the faiths reach 85 percent of the world’s 6.79-billion people.
 
“In every religious community, religious leaders are the people they turn to for advice, the people who lead their communities through dramas and traumas and strife and are still there at the end of it," says ARC Secretary-General Martin Palmer, who hopes religious leaders may find success in teaching followers that poaching destroys God’s creation and is therefore akin to blasphemy. "Government officials: they disappear; NGOs pack up and go home when it gets tough. But the religions are of the people, by the people, for the people. That’s why they’re powerful.”
 
Imam Kasozi, a Muslim leader from Uganda, uses his influence to warn followers that spiritual consequences for poaching in the afterlife will be much stronger than those meted out on Earth.
 
Killing endangered species, he says, is not only illegal, but immoral.
 
“We warn and advise people not to kill because of greed," he says. "It is a criminal offense, and, in front of God, a criminal offense will send you to the gallows on the Day of Judgment.”
 
A large-scale enterprise
 
According to Sam Weru, WWF conservation director in Kenya for eight years, the greed of which Kasozi speaks is precisely what alarms activists and conservationists.
 
“I mean, people are not poaching elephants [or] rhino for food," he says, emphasizing the scale and complexity of the problem. "They are hacking the horn and taking off with it, leaving the whole carcass there.
 
"Look at the level of investment into poaching," he adds. "It’s the not the man with the poisoned bows and arrows or a trap. These are organized gangs that come with automatic weapons. That is not somebody who is looking for food. That is somebody who is looking for big-time money.”
 
In China, Thailand, and Vietnam, where products derived from these animals is highest, ivory from elephants, considered a sign of wealth and status, is used for carvings and religious items, while so-called treatments from rhino horn are thought to cure cancer, remedy hangovers or work as sexual aphrodisiacs.
 
Dekila Chungyalpa, director of WWF’s Sacred Earth program, says these concoctions have no medicinal value.
 
“All of these are myths, because if you look at rhino horn and you think about the composition of rhino horn, well, that’s horse hooves," she says. "Basically, people are eating something similar to horse hoof and convinced that that’s going to cure their cancer, and there’s a huge amount of profit that’s coming out of that.”
 
A need to coexist
 
ARC's Palmer says that some practitioners of faith, however, are using the philosophy of traditional Chinese medicine to battle the poachers. Some Daoists, for example, argue that an imbalance of the cosmic forces of yin and yang can result in new or continuing illness.
 
“Because you’ve actually destroyed the delicate balance that God has created, that medicine’s not going to work," he says. "Not only is it not going to work, but it might actually be detrimental to you, it might poison you."
 
In defense of the endangered species, he says, Daoists are undermining market forces by challenging the psychology of Chinese traditional medicine.
 
"They’re saying, you can spend $100,000 on something that includes a bit of a tiger and a bit of an elephant and a bit of a rhino, but because you are responsible for killing those animals, and pushing them to extinction, that medicine is never going to work.” 
 
Reverend Edward Matuvhulye of Zimbabwe's United Church of Christ says animals and humans are God’s creatures — a message underscored by all the faiths.
 
"They were also created by God as we were created by God," he says, describing the animals as an important aspect of human life. "Therefore, there is a need for us to coexist.” 
 
According to a Global Financial Integrity report, the illegal wildlife trade is the fifth largest illicit transnational activity in the world, after counterfeiting and the illegal trades in drugs, people, and oil.
 
It has an estimated value of $7.8 billion to $10 billion per year.

Listen to report on the morality of poaching
Listen to report on the morality of poaching i
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

 

You May Like

South Korea Divided on Response to North’s Cyber Attack

In past five years, officials in Seoul have accused Pyongyang of hacking into banks, government websites, causing chaos and inflicting millions of dollars in damages More

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Bentiu

Residents have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy, but planning for the future remains uncertain as fear of attacks looms More

2015 Could Be Watershed for Syria Conflict

Republican control of US Senate in January could lead to more aggressive policy against IS militants in Syria - and against regime of Bashar al-Assad More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil Wari
X
Adam Bailes
December 22, 2014 3:45 PM
In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.

All About America

AppleAndroid