The African Elephant follow-up meeting kicked off Monday in northeast Botswana’s Kasane, with delegates from 19 countries, 9 inter-governmental and 10 non- governmental organizations participating in discussions on key issues of African elephant protection.
The meeting is jointly organized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism of Botswana.
Holy Dublin, Chair of IUCN/SSC (Species Survival Commission) African Elephant Specialist Group, said the aim of this year’s meeting is to review the progress made on implementation of the 14 urgent measures adopted in the first African Elephant Summit held in Gaborone in December 2013, to identify challenges and emerging issues and to agree on concrete actions, roles and responsibilities.
“The overall objective of the Kasane meeting is to secure commitments at a higher level to take urgent measures along the illegal ivory trade value chain in African source countries, transit countries and major destination countries,” said Elias Magosi, Permanent Secretary of Botswana’s Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, when making his opening remark at the summit.
Magosi noted large scale of seizures have become common in recent years, suggesting involvement of sophisticated criminal syndicates, taking advantage of conflicts and social unrest, poor governance and corruption in some elephant range states to obtain and transform ivory to the final destinations.
According to Magosi, wildlife poaching has not yet become a serious threat to the elephant population in Botswana, but there have been confrontations between security forces of Botswana and armed poachers from neighboring countries which highlights the need for regional cooperation.
Botswana is working with fellow African countries through regional initiatives such as the Southern African Development Community, Wildlife Protection and Law Enforcement Protocol to expand the scope of regional cooperation in the fight against wildlife poaching and trafficking.
According to a report from Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) released in June 2014, poaching levels remain alarmingly high and continue to far exceed the natural elephant population growth rates, resulting in a further decline in elephant population across Africa. Over 20, 000 Africa’s elephants were illegally killed in 2013.
CTIES statistics showed Southern Africa is home to the largest elephant population of Africa with around 55 percent, while Eastern Africa and Central Africa comes the second and the third with 28 percent and 16 percent respectively.