On 28th April 2016, a three day High Level Elephant Anti-Poaching Summit kicked off in Nanyuki, Kenya. This event also doubled as the inaugural Giants Club Summit. Four presidents; Yoweri Museveni, Uhuru Kenyatta, Ali Bongo Ondimba and Ian Khama were in attendance and represented their respective countries: Uganda, Kenya, Gabon and Botswana. Several other conservationists, business men, and tourist enthusiasts were also present. The coming together of these presidents is significant for anti-poaching events because it expresses the political will that is very much needed to promote the efforts to curb the problem. The summit specifically targeted the protection of elephants and safeguarding their habitats. Other topics included proper training of the rangers, the role of the judicial system, and community involvement in conservation efforts. During the summit, Ol Pajeta Conservatory hosted a day of demonstrations to showcase the efforts against anti-poaching.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora 1989, banned ivory trade. Poaching is specifically rampant because of the ivory market. Ivory is harvested from the tusks of the elephant and used to make various objects, especially ornaments.
Officials unveiled Elephant Protection Initiatives for Kenya, Uganda, Gabon, and Botswana at the summit. This included ramping up funding for front line protection, improving intelligence, technological, and legal capabilities, building electrified fences, and setting up an endowment fund for protected areas, as well as other investments. The overreaching idea at the summit was that elephant tusks are worthless; only a living elephant can bring value to a community. In his speech, the president of Kenya reiterated the idea that elephants are part of the African heritage and must be protected.
On Saturday, Kenya, led by President Uhuru Kenyatta, torched 105 metric tonnes (or over 230,000 pounds) of recovered ivory tusks in a huge bonfire. The ivory burned was worth $150 million, or up to 8,000 elephants and 343 rhinos, according to Associated Press. This was especially significant as “killing the market” was one of the emphasized points to achieving the goals of the summit. Elephant anti-poaching is a strong and potentially successful aim because there are a multitude of replacements for ivory products.
Estimates say that only 400,000 elephants remain. Poaching fuels conflict in the Great Lakes region. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) confirmed last month that Gabon’s Minkebe Park in Africa, which once was home to Africa’s largest forest elephant population, has lost a staggering 11,100 animals in less than a decade due to poaching for the ivory trade.
Recent surveys have revealed that two thirds of Gabon’s elephants have vanished since 2004, and the WCS estimates that the majority of these losses have probably taken place in the last five years. Gabon contains over half of Africa’s forest elephants, with a population estimated at more than 40,000.