The President of Kenya today joined the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI), the African-led conservation programme to eradicate the ivory trade and stop the continued slaughter of the continentâ€™s elephants by poachers on the 21st July. The commitment was made at a signing ceremony arranged by the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources for the Kenya-based wildlife charity Space for Giants at State House in Nairobi. It was one of a series of pledges made by the President on joining the Giants Club, Africaâ€™s new governmental conservation initiative that has been launched by Space for Giants.
The EPI was launched by leaders from Botswana, Chad, Ethiopia, Gabon and Tanzania during the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade in February 2014, with the support of the British Government and the UK-registered charity Stop Ivory. Uganda, Malawi and the Gambia have since also joined. On 3 March, President Kenyatta committed to put Kenyaâ€™s entire ivory stockpile beyond economic use by burning it before the end of this year. Following the Giants Club signing ceremony the official delegation moved onto the first steps in this process being undertaken at the headquarters of the Kenya Wildlife Service as an independent inventory and DNA sampling of the countryâ€™s ivory and rhino horn stocks began.
This will be conducted by a multi-stakeholder team, led by Stop Ivory, which has completed inventories and management reviews for six countries in the last 18 months and is in the process of conducting such operations in support of the EPI across Africa. Kenyaâ€™s inventory is funded jointly by Stop Ivory and Save the Elephants and supported by Wildlife Direct and students from the Technical University of Kenya. Ernst & Young and Huawei Technologies are private sector partners. The Giants Club is a new wildlife forum established by Space for Giants to combat the poaching crisis by bringing together leaders of African elephant-range states, heads of major businesses operating in Africa, and elephant-protection experts to provide the political will, financial resources and technical capacity to save Africaâ€™s remaining elephant populations. The goal is to effectively protect at least 40,000 elephants â€“ 10% of the continental total â€“ by 2020.
Witnessing the signing of the declaration was Prof Judi Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary for the Environment and Natural Resources, Evgeny Lebedev, the patron of Space for Giants who is also the owner of Britainâ€™s The Independent and Evening Standard newspapers (which are supporting the Giants Club initiative), and Dr Max Graham, the CEO of Space for Giants. Prof Wakhungu said: â€œGlobally, Kenya is an exemplar of wildlife conservation, especially in the throes of heightened national, regional, and international illegal wildlife trade. Our strategies are innovative and include: working with communities, winning space for elephants, and having the highest penalties for illegal wildlife trafficking.â€
Mr Lebedev said: â€œKenya has a long history of leading the way in Africa on wildlife issues and the step made by President Kenyatta today in joining the Giants Club, and as part of that committing Kenya to the EPI, continues that great and proud tradition. I would like to extend my thanks to the President for being a conservation leader for the continent, and for taking such an important step in helping end the illegal wildlife trade.â€ Kenya became the latest member of the Giants Club. President Bongo of the Republic of Gabon and President Musevini of the Republic of Uganda have already joined. The leaders of Ethiopia, Tanzania and Sierra Leone have indicated the intention to join shortly.
Dr Max Graham, CEO of Space for Giants, said: â€œKenya has been leading the fight against the poaching crisis and therefore it is only too appropriate for them to have joined the Giants Club. With Kenyaâ€™s engagement we can be confident that elephants are safer in Africa. The Giants Club will protect at least 40,000 elephants by 2020 and its members will work together to end the illegal ivory trade. That is why this new initiative is not only so important but timely.â€ Alex Rhodes, CEO of Stop Ivory, said: â€œKenya values its elephants very highly and has long championed elephant conservation. By joining the Elephant Protection Initiative and Giants Club today Kenya not only underscores its own longstanding commitment to continued action to protect its elephants, but adds its voice to the growing consensus that ivory markets must close if they are to have a future. Stop Ivory is honoured to be working with expert conservation partners across Africa in support of the EPI; and particularly with Kenya Wildlife Service.â€
The EPI (www.elephantprotectioninitiative.org) is a global initiative in which range states, partner states, NGOs, IGOâ€™s, private citizens and the private sector work in partnership to:
- Provide both immediate and longer-term funding to address the elephant crisis through full and timely implementation of the African Elephant Action Plan, by accessing public and private sector support through the creation of a long-term fund that provides guar- anteed financial support for all participating range states for the implementation of the AEAP on the basis of threat to elephant populations and need, and further provides incremental payments linked to overall elephant numbers and growth in elephant populations.
- This fund would also provide funds for world-wide citizen education on the issue; for ad- dressing the various development needs of local communities, including poverty, for national conservation activities, and for regional co-operation;
- Close domestic ivory markets in those participating states still operating a domestic market;
- Observe a moratorium on any consideration of future international trade for a minimum of 10 years and thereafter until African elephant populations are no longer threatened; and agree to put all stockpiles beyond economic use.
As well as committing to the EPI, on joining the Giants Club President Kenyatta pledged to work with Space for Giants in providing effective frontline protection in Kenya in line with the countryâ€™s National Elephant Conservation Strategy. In addition there was a call for immediate and longer term funding of the National Elephant Conservation and Management Strategy and the African Elephant Action Plan.
The illegal killing of elephants and the trade in their ivory across Africa is undermining ecosystem integrity, economic development and the rule of law. In the last three years 100,000 elephants have been killed to supply ivory to illegal markets in Asia, particularly China. Proceeds from this illegal trade are being used to support criminal activity, armed conflict and terrorism. Frontline conservationists are being injured and killed in their hundreds. At current rates the species faces extinction in the wild within our lifetimes.
For further information visit www.spaceforgiants.org