Indonesia’s highest Islamic authority has issued a fatwa that bans illegal hunting and trafficking endangered animals, an edict widely praised by wildlife rights groups as filling a gap between formal law and crime in the resources-rich country.
“All activities resulting in wildlife extinction without justifiable religious grounds or legal provisions are haram (forbidden),” Asrorun Ni’am Sholeh, secretary of Indonesia’s Ulema Council (MUI) commission on fatwas, told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Wednesday, March 5.
“These include illegal hunting and trading of endangered animals.
“Whoever takes away a life, kills a generation. This is not restricted to humans, but also includes God’s other living creatures, especially if they die in vain,” Sholeh added.
Announced on Tuesday, the first-ever wildlife fatwa was issued on January 22 with the aim of reducing the wildlife crimes in Indonesia that endangers the ecosystem in the Asian country.
The wildlife in Indonesia is frequently threatened by agricultural expansion, development and logging.
Timber extraction in the Indonesian forests extremely endangers species such as the Sumatran tiger, orangutan, and Sumatran elephant.
The fatwa was prompted by the confusion among some villagers concerning hunting wild animals like tigers.
“This fatwa is issued to give an explanation, as well as guidance, to all Muslims in Indonesia on the shari`ah law perspective on issues related to animal conservation,” Hayu Prabowo, chair of the Council of Ulama’s environment and natural resources body, was quoted by National Geographic.
“People can escape government regulation,” Hayu said.
“But they cannot escape the word of God.”
The wild life is protected under the Indonesian law as traders of protected animals face sentences up to five-year-jail and 100 million rupiah ($8,700) fine.
The wildlife fatwa was praised by a leading international wildlife rights group, considering it a positive step to protect the ecosystem.
“It provides a spiritual aspect and raises moral awareness which will help us in our work to protect and save the remaining wildlife in the country such as the critically endangered tigers and rhinos,” Nyoman Iswara Yoga, Indonesia communications director of World Wildlife Fund (WWF), said.
Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry and the religious authorities are expected to comment on this fatwa on March 12 in a joint statement, a Forestry Ministry official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Along with individuals, the fatwa is applied also on the government, urging authorities to review their permissions to companies that may threat wildlife.
Indonesia is the largest forest nation in South-eastern Asia with 120 million hectares of rainforest.
Forest fires have long been an annual event in Indonesia during the dry season, and have several times shifted haze pollution to neighboring countries, such as Singapore and Malaysia.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, is also facing over-exploitation of marine resources in which destructive fishing and blast coral reefs has degraded not only the ecosystem, but also affected the vast number of marine species that depend on them.
In 2011, the Indonesian Ulemas Council has formed a body to protect the environment, to the welcome of environmentalists.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that Indonesia, from 2000 to 2005, lost a massive 1.87 million hectares of forest every year.
According to forest ministry data, about 3.25 million hectares of mangrove forest has been in critical condition in Indonesia out of 7.76 million hectares.
Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim state with Muslims making up around 85 percent of its 250-million population.