African leaders to hold historic summit on elephant poaching


Oliver Poole, Evening Standard

Date Published

Kenya’s president is to host a historic gathering of African leaders to address the elephant poaching crisis at the inaugural meeting of the Giants Club  — the wildlife protection initiative backed by the Evening Standard.

It will be followed by the burning of a 120-tonne stockpile of ivory, much of it seized by the Kenyan state from poaching gangs, to show the government’s zero tolerance of the illegal wildlife trade.

The blaze will be eight times larger than any previous destruction of an ivory stockpile.

As he announced the April summit in the Standard, President Uhuru Kenyatta said he and his fellow African leaders “will use this opportunity to underline the global intent to put an end, once again, to the butchering of elephants and rhinos by selfish criminal gangs.”

The Giants Club was founded by Kenya-based charity Space for Giants, whose patron is Standard owner Evgeny Lebedev. It was formed to combat the poaching crisis by bringing together political leaders, corporate chiefs and conservationists to protect Africa’s remaining elephant populations.

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Mr Lebedev welcomed President Kenyatta’s announcement, saying: “I have loved conservation and Africa throughout my life, but only in recent years have I seen how urgently we need to work to combine the two.

“Many of the continent’s most iconic species face extinction. Time is short — but this summit is exactly the right way to address this critical situation, and I am hopeful for its outcome.” In the last three years 100,000 elephants have been killed across Africa to supply ivory to illegal markets. Proceeds from the trade support criminal activity, armed conflict and terrorism. Frontline conservationists have been killed and injured in their hundreds.

The presidents of Gabon, Botswana and Uganda joined Kenya in founding the Giants Club initiative last year. Other leaders, including the presidents of Tanzania, Liberia and Chad and the prime minister of Ethiopia, have  also been invited to attend the Kenya summit on April 29 and 30.

The summit is being organised in association with Kenya’s environment secretary, Professor Judi Wakhungu. The leaders will be joined by some of the largest companies working in Africa, including Olam and De Beers, as well as conservation experts.

Corporate titans such as Richard Branson and XIX Entertainment head Simon Fuller are also involved and the event is being supported by Kenya Airways. The ivory burn will be staged at 3pm onApril 30 in Nairobi National Park and is being organised by Kenya Wildlife Service, supported by the charity Stop Ivory.

Dr Max Graham, founder and chief executive of Space for Giants, said: “The world’s most powerful individuals are being brought together to focus not just on the immediate poaching crisis, but the longer term challenge of ensuring Africa’s conservation estate is sustained forever. President Kenyatta and the Giants Club will achieve something extraordinary.”