Religious Leaders in Africa Join Fight to Save Elephants and Rhinos from Poaching

A group of elephants roams in the wild in Kenya. The animals are being poached for their ivory to feed a growing illegal market in Asia. (RNS photo by Fredrick Nzwili)
A group of elephants roams in the wild in Kenya. The animals are being poached for their ivory to feed a growing illegal market in Asia. (RNS photo by Fredrick Nzwili)

The escalating slaughter of elephants and rhinos is drawing the anger of conservationist clerics, who have begun enlisting church members in the battle to save Africa’s wildlife.

The clerics are driven by a view that these animals are God’s gifts to nature and a critical part of Africa’s heritage.

In Kenya, their concerns heightened in mid-March after the conservation group Wildlife Direct said 16 rhinos had been gunned down in the first three months of the year. More than 30 elephants have also been slaughtered since January.

“We must now treat poaching as an emergency,” said the Rev. Charles Odira, a priest who heads the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Commission for Pastoral and Lay Apostolate. “It must be declared a national disaster.”

Odira said priests and lay leaders in wildlife zones were dedicating time each Sunday and during evangelization gatherings to educate communities on the value of wildlife.

“We are targeting attitude change because the poachers pass through the communities’ lands when targeting the animals. We want to change an existing view that animals are dangerous and need to be fought,” said Odira.

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SOURCE:  
Religion News Service

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