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ARC Home > Projects > Wildlife and Forests :
Wildlife and Forests | Faith statements against the illegal wildlife trade

Wildlife and Forests

There are only 3000 tigers in the wild. Most live in zoos. PHOTO: Creative commons iyoupapa

Read the Religions and Wildlife conservation leaflet here.

Religions and Wildlife programme featured in National Geographic, December 2016

Because the origins of ARC lie in the work of the WWF, the protection and conservation of threatened species has always been at the heart of our organisation. Similarly, as the original Assisi Declarations showed, all major religions teach that the care and protection of the natural world is a fundamental responsibility of the faithful.

In mid 2012 ARC joined with WWF-US's newly created Sacred Earth programme to launch the 'Wildlife & Forests Programme'. The aim of this new initiative is to help communities learn to protect threatened species and their habitats because it is part of their faith to do so.

ARC Secretary General Martin Palmer introduces the Wildlife and Forests programme
Many of the countries where threats to wildlife are extremely high are also countries where faith is a strong guiding force in peoples’ lives, where religious groups are the largest slice of civil society, and where faith leaders are looked upon as guides, spiritual teachers and moral advisors by millions of people.

This is why this is a particularly important programme for ARC and our partners. The illegal wildlife trade for traditional Chinese medicines (TCM) and luxury items is estimated to be worth between US $10-$20 billion per year, causing the dramatic and tragic decline of animals across Asia, Africa and beyond. This initiative reaches out to faith leaders in wildlife “source” countries in southeast Asia, India and Sub-Saharan Africa, and also addresses consumption and demand, particularly in China.

The response by religious leaders from many faith traditions to this challenge has been encouraging. in September 2012, at a conference in Nairobi, Kenya, more than 50 African religious leaders joined with ARC and WWF International in pledging to counter this trade through awareness raising and action. In a further inspiring development in March 2014 the Indonesian Council of Ulama (MUI) issued a fatwa (edict) requiring Muslims to take an active role in protecting threatened species. As the MUI is the supreme Islamic authority for the country's 200 million Muslims - the largest Islamic population in the world - this is a powerful statement that will have a major impact in a country that is home to rhinos, tigers and elephants.

Another wildlife trade fatwa followed in the Malaysian state of Terengganu

Why wildlife?

Whether it's for body parts thought to have curative powers or ivory to be carved into religious statues and ornaments many of the world's magnificent species are being hunted to the verge of extinction. The Wildlife and Forests project focuses on wildlife protection in sub Saharan Africa and Asia, through faiths and religious teachings with key initiatives aiming to protect those species that are most subject to illegal hunting and trade.

Why forests?

The project is also deeply concerned with wildlife projects that include protection of wildlife habitat. In India, for example, where the headline species is tigers we are working with faith communities in and around tiger reserves, and supporting the conservation of the forest park. This will not only protect tigers but also other threatened wildlife living in and around the park.

Areas of outreach

The programme includes:
  • Working with Hindu and Sikh communities to reduce poaching and habitat destruction.

  • Encouraging environmentally friendly pilgrimage to sacred sites inside India’s tiger reserves and other protected areas, in line with the National Tiger Conservation Agency’s mandate that all reserves create management plans for large scale religious tourism. .

  • Daoists in China promoting awareness that using animal parts from protected species can never be effective according to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

  • Supporting a network of Buddhist leaders in Cambodia protecting key forest sites, reducing poaching, and raising awareness and inspiring activism amongst local Buddhist communities.

  • Exploring Christian approaches to stemming the destruction of global biodiversity..

Find out more about the ARC wildlife programme in China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Africa.


Religions and Wildlife conservation leaflet

New Scientist magazine interviews ARC partner Dekila Chungyalpa, director of WWF US's Sacred Earth programme, on how faith groups belong at the forefront of conservation and wildlife protection.

Video announcement of the programme by ARC's Martin Palmer

WWF US Sacred Earth Program

WWF US Video with Dekila Chungyalpa introducing Sacred Earth programme

One of many important articles reporting on the launch of the programme in Nairobi, 2012

Parmarth Niketan Ashram, India

Faith statements against the illegal wildlife trade

China Taoist Association

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Related information

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April 22, 2019:
DEFRA grant to work with Muslims in Indonesia to reduce illegal wildlife trade
The UK Government Environment Department (DEFRA) has awarded a grant of £255,000 to ARC and our Indonesian partners. The grant will be important in engaging Muslim leaders and communities to reduce the illegal wildlife trade.
September 26 2012:
African religious leaders join forces to help stop illegal wildlife trade
An historic partnership between the WWF, ARC and 50 faith leaders from sub-Saharan Africa has been launched to combat the illegal trade in wildlife which is devastating target species.