- Elephant poaching drops for fifth straight year as China closes ivory market
Philanthropists, governments, and corporate leaders from Europe, China, the US and Africa last week pledged more than $6 million for urgent action to protect wildlife habitats at the close of a key conservation summit.
Despite “justified” celebrations of anti-poaching progress that has seen illegal killings of elephants dropping for five years in a row across Africa, “the job’s not done” to protect populations forever, the Giants Club Summit heard.
The Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area around the borders of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, known as KAZA, is home to the largest remaining population of elephants with more than 220,000 individuals.
The Summit heard that parts of this ecosystem now faced increased pressure from poachers. Central Africa’s herds of forest elephants also continue to suffer very high levels of illegal killing.
“The message couldn’t have been louder that we need to act now,” said Max Graham, CEO of Space for Giants, the international conservation organisation the co-hosted the event with Botswana’s endangered wildlife trust, the Tlhokomela Trust.
“There’ve been some major gains made against poaching and we’re justified in celebrating that. But to hear that elephants in the region thought to be the safest are actually under new and growing threats, that’s a huge worry.
I’m grateful that the Giants Club has come together and done what it does best: galvanise new money for quick and effective action,” he said.
The Giants Club will work with national wildlife services and partner organisations to nominate individuals for the Ranger Award Programme of the Paradise Foundation, established by Alibaba founder Jack Ma and other leading Chinese entrepreneurs.
“The Ranger Award is designed to raise awareness about threats to Africa’s wildlife and the critical role that front-line rangers play in conservation,” Mr. Ma said. “By working with the Giants Club countries, we will be able to significantly widen the reach of the award, and thereby attract a greater number of candidates for nomination in recognition of their outstanding contribution to wildlife conservation.”
The European Union grant will be implemented by Space for Giants and the Tlhokomela Trust. It will pay to train and mentor wildlife rangers sharing operational intelligence and resources across the border region. It will also boost legal deterrents against poaching by making investigations and prosecutions stronger across the five countries.
The Giants Club Members’ Challenge Fund includes pledges from the Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Foundation (MISK), the foundation of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, and other Giants Club members.
The Giants Club is an initiative of Space for Giants that aims to effectively protect half of Africa’s elephants and their landscapes by 2020 by uniting the political will, technical know-how, and financial muscle to achieve that goal.
Its founding members are the presidents of Uganda, Gabon, and Kenya and the Tlhokomela Trust. Together their countries are home to more than half of Africa’s 415,000 remaining elephants.
“Our elephants are under threat from poaching and we’re not satisfied that the equation has been concluded on anti-poaching,” said Tshekedi Khama, Botswana’s Minister for Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism. “These populations of wildlife are the reserves for the future.That’s why this has been such an amazing conference. Of many of the initiatives to protect elephants, the Giants Club is the first one that we’ve seen something tangible coming out,” he added.
The Giants Club’s members include international philanthropists and financiers, and key influencers including celebrities. Conservation scientists are technical advisors. The Summit gathers members to hear innovative ideas of how to protect elephants and their landscapes before negotiating finance and securing political will to expand the reach of those ideas.
Space for Giants’ approach has been proven again and again, and in Kenya the organisation’s interventions helped to drive an 84 per cent drop in poaching and reduce Human-Elephant Conflict that was costing subsistence farmers more than £700,000 a year.
His Excellency Seretse Khama Ian Khama, Botswana’s President, took part, joined by senior ministerial representatives of President Ali Bongo of Gabon, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. Delegations from China, the European Union, the United Kingdom, UN Environment, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and the National Geographic Society.