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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 the 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 and WWF-US's new Sacred Earth programme joined together to launch the 'Wildlife & Forests Programme'. The aim of this new initiative is to help communities learn to protect endangered 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
Threats to wildlife are extremely (and probably coincidentally) high in 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 is already encouraging. in September 2012, at a conference in Nairobi, Kenya, 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.

Here is a link to a short video introduction on UBrain TV in which ARC Secretary General Martin Palmer explains the significant links between religions and this illegal activity.

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, Indonesia 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 will be working with faith communities 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:
  • Tiger and forestry protection initiatives by Hindus in northern India, including a launch of this part of the programme at Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh.

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

  • Working with Muslim leaders in Indonesia to raise awareness about the crisis facing the Sumatran tiger and developing Islamic approaches to the sustainable use of traditional herbal medicines.

  • Christian, Muslim and Hindu faith groups from WWF priority areas in Africa (including Tanzania, Cameroon and Kenya) are developing practical plans to challenge poaching and trading.

Find out more about the ARC wildlife programme in China, India, Indonesia 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, given through DEFRA's Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund 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.