Vulnerable African nations join hands to save jumbos


Gilbert Koech, The Star

Date Published

See link for photo.

Just before 2014, five African countries were utterly concerned about the future of their iconic species. Gabon, Chad, Tanzania, Botswana and Ethiopia were all alarmed at the rate at which African elephants were being slaughtered to supply ivory to supply ivory to illegal markets in Asia, particularly China.

The majority of Africa’s surviving elephants — both forest and Savannah species — are in these countries. Worried about the state of affairs, the five launched the Elephant Protection Initiative during the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade in February 2014. The latest edition of the conference was held in London last week.

The five were in agreement that the poaching was undermining ecosystem integrity, economic development and the rule of law. They also agreed proceeds from this illegal trade were being used to support criminal activity, armed conflict and terrorism.

The British government and the UK-registered charity Stop Ivory are supporting the initiative. Several other countries have since joined this African-led conservation programme, trying to eradicate the ivory trade and stop the continued slaughter of the continent’s elephants by poachers. To date, there are 19 member countries, which are Francophone, Lusophone and Anglophone. In the last three years alone, at least 100,000 elephants have been killed. 

Kenya’s elephant population had dropped from 160,000 in the 1970s to 16,000 in 1989.

There were an estimated 10 million jumbos in the 1910s, falling to 1.3 million in 1979. Today there are less than half a million.  

According to the Kenya Wildlife Service, the elephant population stood at slightly more than 35,000 as of December 2015. This is said to be stable.

Burning Ivory

On March 3, President Uhuru Kenyatta committed to put Kenya’s entire ivory stockpile beyond economic use by burning it before the end of this year. Kenya joined the initiative in 2015.

To show its seriousness, Kenya lit a huge bonfire of 105 tonnes of ivory and 1.5 tonnes of rhino horn. The move was largely meant to show that once ivory has been removed from elephants and rhinos and destroyed, the economic value of coveted horns diminishes.

Among the the key objectives of the initiatives are to have common policies to save Africa’s elephants and build a sustainable future for its people. This is mainly based on the African Elephant Action Plan, which was agreed by all African elephant range states in 2010.

They also want the ivory trade and ivory markets shut down. Similarly, the initiative encourages its members, and other African countries, to develop National Elephant Action Plans, which includes budget, monitoring and evaluation plans for countries to protect elephants and benefit people who live alongside them.