Indonesian Muslim clerics back wildlife protection

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia's highest Islamic body has issued a religious edict declaring that the hunting and trading of endangered species are immoral, an official said Thursday.

Hayu Susilo Prabowo, a member of the Indonesian Council of Clerics, said the edict was developed in consultation with environmental activists and academics affiliated with the National University in Jakarta.

Council edicts have no legal weight and are largely ignored, even by observant Muslims, but the announcement shows the impact of conservation efforts in the country.

The edict, or fatwa, is aimed at encouraging people to protect the environment, including endangered animals, said Prabowo, head of the council's environment and natural resources committee.

"We want to make people aware that damaging the environment is immoral and killing endangered species violates Islamic teachings," Prabowo said. "Animals have to be protected, either at zoos or in the wild."

The edict also urges the government to review the licenses of palm oil plantations and other concessions whose operations are detrimental to the environment and endangered species, Prabowo said.

WWF Indonesia and other conservation groups, including Indonesia's Harimau Kita, and forestry ministry officials worked with the council on the edict.

Prabowo said the edict, issued Jan. 22, will be officially announced March 12 at Jakarta's Ragunan Zoo by the council and the forestry ministry.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, is home to scores of endangered animal species, including tigers, elephants, rhinos and orangutans.

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