Caring for wildlife among us — Salt&Light

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A songbird Poached on the brink of extinction is on the rise in Singapore.

In December, a rare vulture was spotted on our island for the first time.

Unbeknownst to most, our island is home to 40 to 60 Raffles banded langurs discovered by Sir Stamford Raffles 200 years ago.

Even our otter population, thought to be extinct since the 1960s, has made a return and splashed in the international news (find out more here and here).

The Bible reveals to us a theocentric view of creation, where wildlife is precious because it gives glory to God.

Last Friday (February 25), a new rehabilitation center to provide veterinary care to wild animals rescued by the National Parks Board was opened. It was set up to receive abandoned or rescued wildlife such as mammals, reptiles and birds that may be injured or in distress.

Then again, you may have read in the news or come across boars eating trash on empty bridges or macaques stealing students’ homework.

Singapore, our highly urbanized and land-scarce city-state, is teeming with wildlife.

Wildlife is fun to watch. But should we care how our activities affect them and their habitats?

Some may even wonder: why not feed these cute little monkeys? (Even if they lose their foraging ability, become aggressive towards us, or get sick from eating processed foods?)

Nicholas Chuan, whose area of ​​work involves educating the public about positive human-wildlife interactions, shares his thoughts on caring for wildlife among us through a theological lens.

Why a theological study of wildlife?

As Christians, how should we interact with and care for wildlife? And what does the Bible say about it—if anything?

Creation – including wildlife – is a key player throughout the biblical narrative.

The Bible has a lot to say about wildlife, even though we don’t hear much about it from the pulpit.

Creation – fauna included – is not merely the backdrop for a grand opening scene in Genesis; he is a key player throughout the biblical narrative.

The Bible reveals to us a theocentric view of creation, where wildlife is precious because it gives glory to God. We therefore praise our Creator alongside our fellow human beings. And we have to take care of wildlife, because God calls them good.

“It was good”

On the fifth day of the creation story, God created the sea creatures and the birds; and on the sixth, earthly creatures. And He “saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:21, 25). God himself declares wildlife to be good – and that’s before humans even enter the scene!

And why is wildlife “good”, we might ask.

In Psalm 104, sandwiched between God’s opening and closing exaltations is a detailed description of the beauty and diversity of God’s creation, including—don’t miss it—wildlife!

Donkeys, birds, storks, goats, badgers, wild beasts and lions (Psalm 104:11-12, 17-18, 20-22).

Conserving habitats and food sources for wildlife is exercising our God-given dominion over creation…obeying God.

All this the psalmist marvels at and praises God.

He screams “O Lord, how manifold are your works! You did them all with wisdom; the earth is full of your creatures.” (Psalm 104:24)

Along with the rest of creation, wildlife glorifies the Creator – and so it is.

How, then, are we supposed to deal with these manifold works of God – the wildlife with which we share this earth?

Read Genesis 1 again: So God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over the cattle and over all the earth and over all the creeping creatures that crawl on the earth. (Genesis 1:26)

To be clear, mankind is set apart to occupy a special place in creation (Psalm 8:4-8). We bear the image of God; wildlife does not.

What God entrusts to us is to have dominion over wildlife – to “rule” (NIV) or “reign” (NLT).

I believe that God made it clear to Adam and Eve that the earth was not theirs alone; we must share natural resources with the wildlife among which we live.

Conserving habitats and food sources for wildlife is exercising our God-given dominion over creation; it is to obey God.

An act of decreation

But the idyllic picture was not to last. Adam and Eve disobeyed God; sin entered into creation. The “thorns and thistles” in God’s curse reveal the effect of sin on mankind’s relationship with agriculture (Genesis 3:17-18), but the later biblical account also reveals the effects on wildlife .

In Jeremiah, the prophet describes a sinful earth as “formless and void” (Jeremiah 4:23) – the very term describing the state prior to Creation (see Genesis 1:2).

In the eyes of Jeremiah, sin is an act of of-the creation: the mountains trembled, the earth became desert and the birds fled (Jeremiah 4:25, 9:12-14; 12:4, 10-11). Because of sin, the fauna languishes; God’s creation is nullified.

redemption of creation

Praise God for not leaving creation undone. God himself came to his broken and desolate creation to redeem it from the curse of sin and death.

Jesus died for the redemption of our sins and the redemption of creation. Through the death of Jesus, God “was pleased to…reconcile all things unto Himself” (Colossians 1:20), and thus set right mankind’s distorted relationship with creation.

When Jesus was in the wilderness after resisting the temptations of the devil, he was “with wild animals” (Mark 1:12-13). A fully human being seated amid wildlife – peacefully, gently, idyllically – a return to Eden.

Now seated at the right hand of the Father, Jesus reigns as King, in praise of “every creature in the heavens and on the earth, under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them” (Revelation 5:13 ).

As the redeemed people of God, we are called to join the chorus of all creation in singing to the glory of our Savior King.

divine rule

Yet, until this last day, we continue to struggle with our sinful nature and yearn to be freed from sin. Creation also “groans” for that day (Romans 8:19-22).

And how breathtakingly beautiful this last day will be. Just as Jesus did with wildlife, little children would dwell in peace with wolves, lambs, leopards, goats, calves, lions, and cobras: “They shall neither harm nor destroy”! (Isaiah 11:6-9, 65:25).

What this implies about predatory diets remains a mystery, but we know that we will be, like Jesus, with wildlife – as we were created to be.

Divine dominion means that we are committed to caring for the animals we have adopted as pets.

Yet, before that day comes, I make two calls:

First, stay on designated trails in our parks. Straying from designated trails unduly damages wildlife habitats.

Second, do not release animals that have been kept in captivity into the wild, whether pets that have become too cute or fish released out of pity. This kills them (for example, by putting freshwater fish in salt water) or upsets the balance of the ecosystem.

Divine dominion means that we are committed to caring for the animals we have adopted as pets.

You could have a positive impact by donating to causes that defend animals, wildlife or our environment. Or volunteer with groups like CreationSG. Be aware of your drinking habits.

So let’s wait for this new Creation where we will truly cohabit with the fauna, in a city with a much more glorious nature. (Revelation 21)

Nevertheless, as individual Christians, let us respect the value God has placed on wildlife, steward our common resources responsibly, and look forward to the day when we stand with all wildlife to worship the Lion of Judah, the Lamb who was killed.


RELATED STORIES:

Why the Great Commandment Includes Care for Creation

“We Don’t Stop Being Human When We Become Christians”: Why Care for Creation Matters More Than You Think

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