The fight against animal trafficking is also about education, conservation awareness.
As with the fight against many criminal movements, the fight against illegal wildlife trade is not just about fighting "the bad guys". It is also about fighting ignorance. For much of the crime is committed and continues to be committed with the support of people who are unaware that what is being done is wrong. This includes the end-user who sustains demand, the poacher who doesn't see the animal as a being with rights, and officers of law and justice who think that wildlife trafficking is a lesser crime and therefore perpetuate the perception that it is all right. It is for this reason that a considerable portion of the work of wildlife conservation groups is education and creating conservation awareness.
The challenge is in setting up values, or redefining them, so as to influence the definition of what is unacceptable. This is not easy. In many communities, some traditional practices, such as eating shark's fin soup during an important celebration, are so deeply ingrained in the social psyche that it takes the leadership of governments, community leaders and even pop idols (often the most influential leaders of this era) to set the right example. Last week, as wildlife groups celebrated the inaugural World Wildlife Day, they were blessed with nothing short of divine intervention in the form of a fatwa from the Indonesian Ulama Council's Fatwa Commission prohibiting the illegal hunting and trade of endangered animals, believed to be the first of its kind in the world.
The 14-page fatwa, comprising references to the Quran, hadith, principles of Islamic jurisprudence and the opinions of Islamic scholars, not only makes haram the illegal wildlife trade, but also exhorts followers towards proactive action to find "an integrated movement to support harmony and balance of biodiversity" and places a prohibition on "activities that may lead to their extinction". It includes specific recommendations for the roles that can be played by the government, legislators, regional administrations, businesses, religious leaders and the community, foremost of which is for the government to restore critical lands (for wildlife habitat), to review permits issued to companies that harm the environment and "to uphold the law against anyone threatening conservation efforts of endangers species". Based on the Muslim belief that "humans are created by God as vice regent on earth -- responsible for the prosperity of all creatures", the fatwa attempts to give life to this belief. And, although it is only an advisory to give direction to Muslims and is not legally binding, it is a powerful example of taking a moral stand and providing inspiring leadership to the community.