Buddhist Monks as Animal Welfare Ambassadors
Development of educational materials in Cambodia
In the hope of positive effects on one's own life or even a rebirth (= good karma), in Cambodia illegally traded wild animals are bought and donated to Buddhist monasteries. This tradition promotes poaching in the Asian country. In addition, due to a lack of knowledge, a growing number of those monasteries keep these animals permanently under conditions that are not animal-friendly. Together with the local organization Angkor Center for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB), the Welttierschutzgesellschaft (WTG) is now developing an animal welfare textbook for Buddhist monks so that they, as animal welfare ambassadors, can strengthen wildlife conservation in Cambodia.
Donating animals to monks and monasteries is one of many Buddhist traditions. To strengthen wildlife conservation in Cambodia and end this practice in the long term, WTG together with the Angkor Center for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB), is developing an animal welfare textbook for Buddhist monks.
Lack of knowledge
Buddhist monks enjoy a high reputation in Cambodia, which allows them to have a great influence on society and enables them to put an end to this animal harming tradition. However, the monks' knowledge of the various wild animals native to Cambodia is very limited, as this topic has not yet been addressed in their training. As a result, the monks often cannot identify the donated animals at first, do not carry out first aid measures and cannot keep them animal-friendly either. Furthermore, the monks often also lack knowledge about existing laws and regulations in the wildlife sector and about the protection of wildlife.
An animal welfare textbook for monks
So far due to lack of education material animal welfare topics were not included in the monk training. The WTG, together with the ACCB and a few monks as advisors, is therefore developing a textbook for Buddhist monasteries in Khmer language, the official language of Cambodia. In a first step, 250 copies will be printed. These will then be presented in monasteries, at Buddhist universities and to local government representatives. The approval of the local government is the main condition for an official use of the educational materials in the monasteries. The use of the book will then be tested with monks from the surrounding area before it is gradually introduced at several monasteries in the province of Siem Reap and beyond. Monasteries that keep wild animals are addressed separately in this context, with the aim that they hand over the animals into professional hands.
The use of the textbook is twofold – it is the basis for future animal welfare education programs for monks, but it will also remain in the respective monastries, giving monks the opportunity for selfstudy and thereby reaching many generations of monks.. The textbook explains the connections between the practice of giving animals and the suffering of wild animals. It also provides the monks with arguments to create awareness among believers for more animal welfare. The aim is to end this Buddhist tradition in the long term. That monks are open-minded and interested in the topic became clear in 2014, when the ACCB carried out an animal welfare training course for monks - the first of its kind in Cambodia. The number of participants exceeded the expectations. More than 700 monks from more than 30 monasteries participated. The feedback was consistently positive and there were numerous requests for additional training of this kind.
Improvement of the veterinary equipment in the protection centre
For many years, the ACCB has operated a wildlife protection centre near the Angkor Wat temple complex. The WTG has been supporting the work of the wildlife protection centre in the past. At the centre, wild animals of all kinds are nursed and prepared for the reintroduction into the wild. Many animals arrive at the centre with injuries or illnesses. If they cannot be released into the wild due to their health, they can find a permanent home at the wildlife centre. As there are very few veterinary facilities in Cambodia, the protection centre has to carry out many examinations and therefore needs good quality veterinary equipment. The WTG provides support and makes it possible to purchase new medical instruments, rapid disease tests or appropriate storage for medicines.