Kasane — Urgent action is required to stop the massacre of elephants and the deprivation of rural communities of the opportunity to benefit from their natural resources.
Speaking at the African elephant meeting in Kasane on March 23, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism (MEWT) Mr Elias Mokgosi noted that large scale seizures had become common in recent years, suggesting involvement of sophisticated criminal syndicates.
“These syndicates take advantage of conflicts and social unrest, poor governance and corruption in some elephant range states to obtain and transport ivory to their destinations,” he said.
He noted that tens of thousands of elephants had been killed over the last five years, with 2011 recording the largest number in recent times, adding that the current killing was threatening the existence of African elephants.
In Botswana, Mr Mokgosi said while poaching had not yet become a serious threat to the elephant population, there had been encounters between security forces and armed poachers from neighbouring countries. This, he said, highlighted the needs for cooperation between different countries to counter this threat.
“Botswana, Chad, Gabon, Ethiopia and Tanzania have also agreed to the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI), which is intended to build upon other initiatives to address the poaching and illegal trade in ivory and not compete against them,” he said.
Presenting on illegal trade in ivory, Dr Tom Milliken of Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) noted that prices of ivory per kilogram have increased, thus their value has increased. “The year 2011 recorded the highest cases of illegal ivory trade with a slight decrease in 2012,” Dr Tom Milliken noted.
He highlighted that there was improvement in seizures by African countries before ivory left Africa for mostly Asian markets. “We have, however ,noted a decrease in seizures in China, which leads one to wonder if there is less ivory going into China or weak law enforcement,” he said.
He, however, noted that surveys had shown that China and Thailand remain some of the biggest importers of ivory despite the decrease in seizures by both countries. “There is something invisible about ivory, these syndicates have become very sophisticated and hide ivory in bangles and chocolate bars,” he said.
Dr Milliken noted that there is still a challenge with policing internet and social media as that is where some of the transactions take place.
The overall objective of this session was to report on the implementation of the 14 urgent measures agreed to at the last African elephant summit held in Gaborone, Botswana in 2013, with a view of identifying challenges and developing concrete actions to address these challenges.