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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

update President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs