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Jakarta Globe | March 05, 2014

Editorial: Endangered Animals Fatwa A Wise Move

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The issuance of a fatwa by Indonesia’s top Islamic clerical body against illegal hunting and trade of wildlife, including endangered animals, sends a strong message to poachers to stop.

As reported by Agence France-Presse, the religious edict by the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) would be the world’s first and was hailed even by the World Wildlife Fund.

Across Indonesia, the Javan rhino, orangutans in Kalimantan and elephants in Sumatra are among the endangered species that are sought out by poachers. Their numbers were abundant just centuries ago, but time slows their decline toward possible extinction.

Tigers once roamed freely in Bali and Java. But no more. The large cats can now only be found on Sumatra, but as human settlements encroach on their habitats, they are killed, and their pelts can fetch thousands of dollars on the black market.

While it remains to be seen whether the fatwa can make a dent in the illegal trade of endangered species, the WWF says it “is a positive step forward” and that it raises social awareness. Raising public awareness will go a long way in helping animals. Respecting the habitat of endangered animals will also go a long way in allowing future generations to appreciate them and protect them where they naturally occur.

News of the extraordinary fatwa comes as the MUI is entangled in a tug-of-war with the government over the right to issue “halal” certificates. Allegations reported recently by Tempo magazine that MUI auditors extorted tens of thousands of dollars from Australian companies to have certificates issued have compounded this issue.

Regardless, the fatwa can only be seen as a positive step and hopefully will indeed help save the animals that are part of Indonesia’s DNA. The long-term gain from having these majestic creatures around should trump short-term profit-seeking.


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