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The goal: Find ways to stop the slaughter of Africa’s elephants.
And perhaps, more importantly, for government leaders to flex their political muscle in support of the cause.
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta gave the opening address.
“The protection of giants therefore requires the combined wisdom of our elders, as well as the hope of our youth,” Kenyatta said. “We have not abandoned our legacy and will not abandon our legacy to the whims of the market but rather, today we begin taking bold steps, indeed giant steps, which merit the praise of our ancestors and which will inspire our own youth to recognize the intrinsic value of our national heritage.”
Kenyatta’s presence at the summit, along with Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba, makes the event the highest level of its kind.
Panelists Friday covered issues such as the importance of properly training and motivating wildlife rangers, building a strong judiciary, and getting communities on board with conservation efforts.
‘Kill the market’
But Kenya Wildlife Service Chairman, Richard Leakey, emphasized that the market is key to the problem. The price of ivory is about $500 per kilogram — even more, he said, by the time it arrives at its destination.
“And so my appeal is: Let’s kill the market, once and for all. Let’s never again have ivory across international boundaries,” Leakey said.
He urged all African countries with ivory stockpiles to destroy them. Kenya will torch its stockpile Saturday.
Risk of extinction
Conservationists warn that elephants could face extinction in the wild if more is not done. There are more elephants dying — by natural or illegal means — in Africa than there are being born. And the loss of forest elephants is even more striking than their savannah counterparts, with an estimated 70 percent loss of these animals in the last 10 years.
In all, only about 400,000 African elephants remain.
Officials unveiled Elephant Protection Initiatives for Kenya, Uganda, Gabon and Botswana at the summit, which include ramping up funding for frontline protection; improving intelligence, technological and legal capabilities; building electrified fences; and setting up an endowment fund for protected areas, as well as other investments.