Dalai Lama Campaigns to End Wildlife Trade

NEW DELHI, India, April 8, 2005 (ENS) - A campaign to build awareness of nature conservation and the protection of wild species among the Tibetan community living in India and the Buddhists of the Himalayan region was formally launched by the Dalai Lama in New Delhi Wednesday.

Two environmental organizations - The Wildlife Trust of India and Care for the Wild International - are conducting the campaign jointly with support from the Rowell Fund.

Introducing the conservation campaign to an audience of Tibetan community leaders, professionals and students, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, said, "We Tibetans are basically Buddhists and particularly in the Mahayana tradition which we follow, we preach love and compassion towards all other living beings on Earth. And therefore it is the responsibility of all of us to realize the importance of wildlife conservation."


Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama addressed the crowd in New Delhi, asking each person to accept responsibility of conserving wild animals and all living beings. (Photo courtesy Wildlife Trust of India)
Saying he has recently turned to a vegetarian diet, the Dalai Lama called on people to stop killing and destroying animals. "Everything that our Earth holds is a treasure and is like ornaments, without which life would be very boring and dull," he said.

"It is a shame that we kill these poor animals to satisfy our own aggrandizement," he said.

"Today’s youth, particularly the ones who have come from Tibet and have a refugee status must inculcate these principles for their own development and to have peace of mind," said the Tibetan leader, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

“This forms the essence of a campaign to spread the message on nature conservation, to build awareness in the Tibetan community and remind the ones who have veered away from the tenets of compassion and respect for all living beings,” says Ashok Kumar, senior advisor and trustee of the Wildlife Trust of India.

Until a few years ago, herds of wild blue sheep, yak, deer and flocks of migrating birds would travel with Tibetan nomads, or land in the midst of human settlements - apparently sensing they were safe - and for the most part they were. The same is not necessarily true today.

Even animals protected by international treaty from trade and exploitation are no longer safe from poachers and smugglers. A longtime campaigner against poaching and trade in wildlife, Kumar it is urgent to reach the target audiences with the conservation message before all the animals are gone.


Blue sheep, like this group in Ladakh, are increasingly rare. (Photo courtesy My Himalayas)
“A large seizure of wildlife articles en route to Tibet took place in Nepal in March last year. A haul of eight tiger skins and nearly 400 kilograms of tiger bones was made in New Delhi as far back as 1993,” said Kumar.

On October 9, 2003, Tibetan enforcement authorities intercepted a truck on the border with Nepal that carried 32 tiger skins, 579 leopard skins, and 665 otter skins – probably the largest single haul of tiger and leopard skins, internationally, in recent history, Kumar told the audience.

Dr. Barbara Maas, the chief executive of Care for the Wild International, said the conservation message fits well with the Buddhist view of the world. “Buddhism plays an important role in the everyday lives of most Tibetans. It has compassion for all sentient beings at its core,” she said. “Yet, the life of each and every animal killed for its body parts has ended in an act of violence. Cumulatively, this violence has consequences not only for the fate of individuals but, as we have seen, for entire species."

"Species become extinct one animal at a time," said Maas. "Wild animals – as individuals or species - cannot protect themselves against our violent interference. But whether or not we exploit their defenselessness is our choice. In terms of guiding this choice, Buddhism and its focus on compassion and the elimination of suffering has many useful things to say to each and every one of us about how to live side by side with other species. It offers us a different way of being."

"Today more than ever before", said the Dalai Lama, "life must be characterized by a sense of universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life."