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World's religious leaders called upon to help end illegal poaching

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 27th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The World Wildlife Fund and the Alliance of Religions and Conservation have joined forces to create a consortium of religious leaders to confront the worldwide crisis of poachers, coupled with people who buy the products derived from the animals they kill.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The fund calls the illegal wildlife trade today's biggest threat to the survival of the world's endangered species. Africa saw the highest rates of animal killings in more than 20 years in 2011, coupled with the largest-scale illegal-ivory seizures ever recorded. It's estimated that the illegal ivory was harvested from the tusks of more than 4,000 dead elephants.
 
In nations where such endangered species such as elephants, rhinos and tigers, the rule of law is often weak, law enforcement spotty and corruption is rife. Both groups have partnered with Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist and traditional faith leaders from across Africa to unite against poachers.

 "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,\" Alliance Secretary General Martin Palmer says.

Palmer 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."
 
A Muslim leader from Uganda, Imam Kasozi 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 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."
 
According to Sam Weru, WWF conservation director in Kenya for eight years, the greed of criminal individuals is what truly 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."
 
Profits derived from poaching come from such Asian nations as China, Thailand and Vietnam. Products derived from these animals are at their highest there. In particular, 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.


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