Malaysians to preach tiger protection in mosques

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Malaysians to preach tiger protection in mosques

The Associated Press
Monday, March 16, 2009

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Preachers in some Malaysian mosques will urge worshippers to help stop the poaching of tigers, elephants and other endangered animals after similar sermons on turtle conservation were well received, an environmentalist said Monday.

Dozens of preachers in northern Kelantan state bordering Thailand have agreed to read sermons against the illegal wildlife trade, said Sara Sukor, an official with the World Wildlife Fund.

The sermons “talk about how Islam teaches you to conserve animals and plants. We try to connect the Quran verses with the issues themselves,” she said. “It has gotten very critical of late. In unofficial reports we hear about all this conflict and poaching going on.”

Last year, Islamic preachers in neighboring Terengganu state stressed the importance of turtle protection in a specially written sermon. World Wildlife Fund officials say the sermon received a good response. Figures indicating the impact of the sermons on illegal trade in turtles were not immediately available.

Sukor said the sermons to protect elephants and tigers were expected to start in April or May.

Among other messages, preachers will explain how chopping down forests takes away elephants’ and tigers’ natural habitats, forcing them to raid plantations and villages for food.

Wildlife fund officials say only 500 Malayan tigers still live in the wild in Malaysia ? down from 3,000 in the 1950s ? while about 1,300 Asian elephants remain on peninsular Malaysia, according to government figures.

The World Wildlife Fund said it also hopes to work with local Islamic authorities in other states to distribute conservation sermons nationwide, dealing with each area’s specific issues and animals.

Kelantan and Terengganu states are among Malaysia’s most conservative. Some 60 percent of Malaysians are Muslims, and Islam is the country’s official religion.

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