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Clerics step in to help protect elephants.Facebook: Game Animals of the Past and Present

Poaching is now not only illegal in a Malaysian state and Indonesia, it's a sin. So say Muslim clerics who have declared war on those killing elephants and other wildlife.

Clerics in Malaysia's north-eastern state of Terengganu recently joined Indonesia in issuing a fatwa – a religious edict – against illegal hunting. Indonesia's top Muslim council issued a similar fatwa in 2014, and it was lauded by grateful conservationists as the first of its kind in the world.

"Religion is a powerful medium," Gopalasamy Reuben Clements, a scientist at University Malaysia Terengganu , told the GlobalPost. "The whole idea is not to create a new law but to support the current civil law against poaching. We are not trying to change the culture overnight but we are hoping that the fatwa will help build peer pressure."

Islamic clerics can play a "major role" in raising public awareness on conservation issues in places like Terengganu, where over 95% of the million people in the area follow Islam, Clements noted.

Asrorun Niam Sholeh, a secretary at the Indonesian Ulema Council which oversees fatwa issues, said that Muslims "have a duty to maintain the ecological balance."

In a recent heartbreaking poaching, a tame Sumatran elephant, Yongki, who helped rangers patrol the rainforest, was poisoned by poachers for his tusks.