African leaders have called on international donors to commit $1 billion over the next 12 years to save Africa’s remaining elephants.
During the Elephant Protection Initiative’s Consultative Group at the Illegal Wildlife Trafficking Conference, the group urged “donors to put elephants beyond the risk of extinction” by helping provide the required investment.
Africa’s elephant population has been devastated by ivory poachers over the past decade. On average, some 55 elephants are killed per day. If this rate continues, elephants could be wiped out within a generation.
The EPI held crucial meetings on the elephant crisis at the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference in London.
The EPI’s first ever Consultative Group was hosted by the President of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba. Seven African countries – Gabon, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Ethiopia, Angola and Chad – presented their elephant conservation plans. These plans would cost some 268 million USD to implement over the next three years.
Their National Elephant Action Plans are fully costed national plans drawn up by African governments to protect their elephant populations.
The EPI champions and advocates for these plans across Africa as a sustainable and effective way to save the continent’s dwindling elephant population, which continues to come under fierce attack from poaching and illegal trafficking.
The EPI’s John Stephenson said Africa has set out an ambitious programme of elephant conservation.
“If we invest one billion dollars by 2030, we can put elephants beyond the risk of extinction, protect habitats, and the communities who live alongside wildlife.
“When this money is spread across elephant range states, the amount we spend in each country will be modest, but the returns will be large,” said Stephenson.
President of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba, said EPI states have invested their own blood and treasure to protect elephants from poachers.
He added that African communities are losing their crops and are being killed by these magnificent but dangerous beasts.
“Hungry villagers bear the brunt of the elephant’s appetite, whilst countries who have eliminated the indigenous animal’s threats to their people demand conservation action.
“Despite the challenges, the EPI member states are determined to halt the elephant slaughter and to fight the wider threats to our biodiversity.
“But we are fighting the battle on behalf of all mankind. Is the rest of the world prepared to help us? If the international community is unable or unwilling to identify the finances required to implement these [National Elephant Action] plans, despite our countries’ national budget contributions, which total tens of millions of dollars, then NEAPs are just pieces of paper,” stressed Bongo.
President Bongo added that this is not a battle African countries can or should fight alone.
“Wildlife crime is an international criminal business on par with the trafficking of drugs, arms and children and by nature, the solution has to be international.
“But going beyond the fight against international crime, the elephant is an international icon; the largest land mammal. Our planet would be a lesser place if the rumble and the trumpet of the elephant were no more.”
The First Lady of Kenya, Margaret Kenyatta, said the Republic of Kenya has been a supportive member of this global initiative since 2015.
“Kenya’s rich natural assets are extremely vital for our citizen’s livelihoods, economic growth and the pursuit of sustainable development,” said Margaret Kenyatta.
She said across the world and throughout history, any change brought about by humanity has always been as a result of the collaborative process.
“Today, on behalf of the Kenyan government, I reaffirm our pledge and commitment to support the objectives of this continental group,” She noted.
“We also commit to support the NEAPs and to allocate more resources to the implementation of sound conversation efforts that ensure local communities will experience economic gain from wildlife conservation. Let us fight illegal trade at all levels.”
Duke of Cambridge, Prince William said he was delighted to be at the first meeting ever since the EPI was created four years ago.
“I have continued to believe it offers the best African owned approach to protecting African elephants,” said the Duke of Cambridge.
Highlighting the work of the EPI and steps made since its inception, The Duke of Cambridge commented that domestic ivory markets are closing, the international ivory trade has plummeted and government stockpiles are being put beyond commercial use.
“Action plans embrace the United Nation’s sustainable development goals and set out a path to a sustainable future for elephants…most importantly they are your plans, they are African owned plans.
“They are underpinned by a common principle that ivory will not be sold commercially. They give each country ownership and control over how to manage elephant populations in your own way,” said Prince Williams.
BY PAUL TENTENA AND AGENCIES