Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Africa's Religious Leaders Team Up to Help Stop the Illegal Wildlife Trade

Religious leaders gather for an interfaith prayer at the site of ivory burn in Nairobi National Park.

It has been recently reported that the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) have announced their first-ever partnership with religious leaders from across Africa to join forces against the illegal wildlife trade. In an exceptional move, fifty religious representatives from different religions and countries have allied to authorize a ban on the wildlife trade which is destroying the continent's elephant and rhino populations. The WWF and ARC have worked with leaders from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and traditional African faiths to align around the wildlife crisis in Africa and conducted several meetings. These included a safari in Kenya's Nairobi National Park during which the leaders discussed the purpose of religion in Africa to put a stop to the ongoing threat. The leaders gave an emotional tribute to all the wildlife killed because of the trade, and also prayed for the amenity of the local communities and for hundreds of rangers that have sacrificed their lives protecting Africa's wildlife.
An elephant herd in Tsavo East National Park.

I'm very much impressed to see that religious leaders in Africa have joined in the battle to combat the illegal wildlife trade. In my opinion, this would persuade and motivate local communities to step forward in this effort to put an end to this continuous bloodbath. According to Dekila Chungyalpa, program director of WWF's Sacred Earth, religious leaders are the "backbone of local communities, providing lessons and guidance that shape how people live their lives." However, she also pointed out that poaching of endangered wildlife is a "highly organized crime backed by international syndicates who also back other crimes such as gun and drug trafficking." She further added that victims also include rangers and local communities, as well as animals. This statement relates to why Africa's militias and rebel groups rely on the wildlife trade to fund their wars. It is also why it is extremely crucial to combat the illegal wildlife trade around the world. Not only does this illicit and lucrative trade claim lives of animals, but also innocent people. In addition to that, there is also news that the South African government is calling its people to help in the battle against the nation's rhino poaching. The only way to help put a stop to poaching and the illegal wildlife trade is to involve communities to join the battle, as well as government officials, NGO officials, and other authorities.

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