On the eve of the international Kasane Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade in Botswana
and following recent reports that as many as 100,000 elephants were killed in only three
years, Ethiopia ceremonially burns its ivory and calls on Africa and the world to unite and
join the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI).
– EMBARGOED UNTIL 0900 (EAT), 20 MARCH 2015 –
This morning at the Gullele Botanic Gardens overlooking Addis Ababa, the seat of the
African Union, in the presence of Ministers, Ambassadors and the world press, H.E Ato
Demeke Mekonnen Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia, set fire to a pyre of over six
tonnes of ivory to show his country’s zero tolerance for the illegal trade. He called on the
international community to unite against the illegal trade by joining the Elephant
“If we allow our Elephants to be killed, not only will we betray our heritage, but we will
impoverish ourselves and future generations. This will not happen on our watch.” said
the Deputy Prime Minister, before setting the torch to a mass of carved ivory, statues
and chopsticks at the base of the pyre of tusks, the largest of which weighed over 51kg.
“Our message is simple – the ivory trade must stop.”
“We call on all African Nations and the world community to join us, Botswana, Chad,
Gabon and Tanzania in the EPI. We call on you all to join us to secure a future with
The pyre represents Ethiopia’s entire national stockpile. Tusks and trinkets come from
elephants illegally killed across the length and breadth of the continent and illegally
trafficked on their way to consumer markets before being seized at Ethiopia’s Bole
International Airport by a specialist Ethiopian anti-trafficking operation.
Elephant populations are in decline in all four regions of Africa.
“As Africa’s major transport hub, Ethiopia has a critical role to play in cracking down on
the illegal trafficking of ivory. We take that extremely seriously.” said Ethiopia Wildlife
Conservation Authority Director General Dawud Mume Ali.
“Ethiopia also supports one of Africa’s most important elephant populations. Babile’s
elephants are genetically unique and mark the north-eastern extent of the continental
range. We have significantly strengthened our level of field protection through capacity
building of rangers over the last 12 months, and employment of 35 new rangers is under
“Today’s launch of our National Elephant Action Plan under the EPI is a key step in
securing a future for all our elephants.”
Ethiopia has approximately 1900 elephants remaining.
The EPI, an African-led, partnership-based, results-oriented Initiative has been
recognised by donors as an effective mechanism to direct funds for nationally prioritized
inventions under a continental framework.
“We are putting significant financial and technical support into Ethiopia under the
EPI.”said Alex Rhodes, Chief Executive Officer of Stop Ivory. “Where countries act to
tackle poaching under a common policy, it gives donors comfort. Not only because it
shows that they are committed to the protection of their elephants, but also that donor
dollars may go further by stopping the drivers of the killing: the ivory trade.”
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service commends Ethiopia for taking a strong public stand
against wildlife trafficking and joining a growing global movement to end this illicit trade,”
said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “Today’s ivory destruction
demonstrates Ethiopia’s commitment to combating the poaching of elephants, rhinos
and other treasured species and sends a clear and powerful message that wildlife crime
will not be tolerated. We all have a stake in ensuring the survival of wild animal and plant
species at risk, and the Ethiopian government’s action today serves as yet another
catalyst for further action.”
In September last year, the head of UNDP, Helen Clarke and Valerie Hickey of the World
Bank voiced their support for the EPI.
Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister Dr Tewdros Adhanom launched the Elephant Protection
Initiative with the Presidents of Botswana, Gabon, Chad and Tanzania at the London
Conference last February.
The Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI) calls for all countries, NGOs, IGOs, the private
sector and civil society to come together in union to:
– Maintain the international ban on ivory trade for at least 10 years and until elephants
are no longer threatened;
– Close domestic ivory markets in the few countries where they still exist;
– Put Ivory stockpiles beyond economic use; and
– Develop and fund the implementation of the African Elephant Action Plan across the
Ethiopia has also undertaken a rigorous environmental impact assessment and will be
planting a 30 hectare, 90,000 seedling elephant memorial forest to offset the carbon
emissions of the burn. “The alkaline ivory ash is excellent fertiliser for young trees” said
Her.Excellency W/ro Tadelech Dalecho State Minister of Ministry of Culture and
Tourism”This forest will grow up with our children as a reminder of the elephants that we
have lost and our commitment to a shared future.”