by Patrick Devlin

The Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), Indonesia’s highest Islamic clerical body, has issued a fatwah (a religious decree) outlawing the illegal poaching and trafficking of the country’s endangered wildlife species and the wanton decimation of wildlife habitats in the island nation. The religious council deemed illegal hunting of threatened wildlife to be “unethical, immoral and sinful.”

Over the course of the past 20 years vast swaths of Indonesian forests have been leveled by lumber interests to make room for palm oil plantations and other agricultural development. The destruction of the nation’s forests has threated the habitat of many endangered species, including orangutans, Sumatran tigers and elephants.

Asrorun Ni’am Sholeh, the secretary of the council’s commission on fatwas, told Agency France Press; “All activities resulting in wildlife extinction without justifiable religious grounds or legal provisions,” are forbidden under Islamic law. Sholeh said that the theologians concluded that illegal hunting and trading of endangered animal species threatens future generations of the species. Sholeh said the clerical body concluded that 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.”

The World Wildlife Fund released a statement in support of the declared religious prohibition of hunting endangered species, calling the world’s first religious law protecting threatened wild creatures “a positive step forward,” which “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.”