Kenya signs petition calling on EU to ban ivory trade


Kenya Broadcasting Corporation

Date Published

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Kenya has joined more than 32 other African countries in signing a petition calling on the European Union (EU) to ban its ivory trade.

The signing of the landmark petition, at the ongoing Second Giants Club Summit in Kasane, Botswana, is part of a campaign to aimed at imploring European countries to close down their ivory markets.

At the Summit, Kenya’s Environment and Forestry Minister, Keriako Tobiko was at hand to sign the petition on behalf of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

While China, Hong Kong and other key players have already implemented or announced ivory bans, the EU is yet to follow suit. 

The petition, organised by citizens movement Avaaz, calls on EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella and EU heads of government to close Europe’s domestic trade in ivory, end all ivory exports, and support efforts to ban the global ivory trade.

The EU is the world’s biggest exporter of legal ivory and presides over a booming trade. It exported 1,258 tusks in 2014 and 2015 alone, more than the previous 8 years combined.

It has since advised governments only to export worked ivory, rather than raw tusks — but this legal trade is thought to increase demand for and act as a cover for the illicit ivory trade, which is fuelling Africa’s elephant poaching crisis. At current rates of decline, elephants could be extinct in the wild within decades.

H.E. President Khama of Botswana, together with representatives of 29 other African nations, publicly called on the European Union to ban its ivory trade.

In a landmark move, President Khama took to the stage at a historic international Summit, in Kasane, Botswana, to add his name to a civil society petition organised by the global campaigning movement Avaaz that has already been signed by more than 1m people around the world. Botswana has the highest population of elephants in Africa.

The petition was earlier signed by Presidents Museveni and Ali Bongo Ondimba, and the African Elephant Coalition — bringing the total number of countries on board to 32.

In his address at the Summit’s official opening, Tobiko confirmed that Kenya has made significant strides in environmental conservation reforms. As part of a national strategy, the country he said has adopted a participatory approach, involving communities in environmental conservation while strengthening legal instruments.

The Directors of Public Prosecutions in Kenya, Uganda and Botswana, working with Space for Giants following Giants Club pledges made at the 2016 summit, have developed new prosecution standards in criminal cases and created new wildlife prosecution toolkits. These are designed to ensure legal action against wildlife crimes have the greatest chance of successful outcomes.

Communities neighbouring wildlife and related environmental ecosystems, Tobiko said, are the custodians of our environmental biodiversity and must be actively involved in decision making, management and benefits.

“Kenya has made tremendous progress on environmental conservation. For example, we have now raised the rate of successful prosecution of wildlife crimes including poaching to 93% last year up from 24% in 2014,” Tobiko said, adding that, Key agencies including the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) have been equipped to deal with poaching through the formulation of Rapid response guidelines on investigation and response.”

The Giants Club was founded by President Kenyatta with the presidents of Botswana, Gabon, Kenya and Uganda, with support from Space for Giants and its patron, Evgeny Lebedev, the owner of The Independent and London Evening Standard newspapers. 

The body was formed to combat the poaching crisis by bringing together visionary leaders who can work together to provide the political will, financial resources and technical capacity required to protect Africa’s remaining elephant populations.

At the high-level summit co-hosted by the Tlhokolmela Trust and Space for Giants, Cabinet Secretary, Mr. Tobiko is representing President Uhuru Kenyatta as a follow up to the successful hosting of the first Giants Club Summit in Nanyuki, Kenya last year.

Bert Wander, campaigns director at Avaaz said: “European officials told us they couldn’t ban ivory because not enough African leaders wanted them to. Now we’re going back to them with signatures from more than 30 countries where most of Africa’s elephants live to ask if they have any other excuses. The truth is there are none — the rest of the world is turning its back on the ivory trade. Why not Europe?”

On Friday morning during the opening ceremony, President Khama signed a placard reading: “Europe: End the Ivory Trade!” Before President Khama was invited to sign the placard, messages from Avaaz members from across the globe were broadcast onto the Summit’s screens, urging the EU to close its ivory markets. The signed placard was then delivered to the summit’s EU delegation by Hon. Tshekedi Khama, Botswana’s Environment Minister, and will now be taken to Brussels.

The biennial Giants Club summit brings together leaders of African states, businesses, philanthropists and others to find solutions to the crisis facing elephants. Its aim is to protect at least half of Africa’s elephants by 2020. The summit is taking place from 15-17 March.

Max Graham, CEO of Space for Giants, which is co-hosting the Summit, said: “We’ve long argued that all ivory markets should be closed because any vagueness in can you buy it or can’t you buy it drives confusion, and criminal networks make billions of euros a year exploiting that confusion. It’s simple: the EU must follow the US and especially China, and say no ivory is for sale, full stop.”

The full list of countries on board is Botswana, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Togo, Uganda.

Something worth noting is that The Presidents of Botswana, Uganda, and Gabon signed the petition. Kenya signed via Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary Mr. Keriako Tobiko and the remainder of the countries signed via the African Elephant Coalition.