Kenya joins the elephant protection initiative

[Photo: Paul Mannix]
[Photo: Paul Mannix]

Kenya has joined the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI), the African-led conservation programme and to help eradicate the ivory trade and stop the continued slaughter of the continent’s elephants by poachers.

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 (21st July).

It was one of a series of pledges made by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta on joining the Giants Club, Africa’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.

President Kenyatta earlier committed to put Kenya’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 country’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.

Kenya’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 Africa’s remaining elephant populations. The goal is to effectively protect at least 40,000 elephants – 10 percent of the continental total – by 2020.

Evgeny Lebedev, the patron of Space for Giants who is also the owner of Britain’s The Independent and Evening Standard newspapers (which are supporting the Giants Club initiative), and Dr. Max Graham, the CEO of Space for Giants.

Kenya’s Minister for Environment and Natural Resources Prof. Judi Wakhungu said that Kenya is an example 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,” she said.

Lebedev said that Kenya 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.

“Based on the training and what we have inventorized so far, as partners, we look forward to a scientific and credible ivory and rhino horn inventory,” said Dr. Benson Okita, Head of Monitoring at Save the Elephants said.

As a requirement by AfRSG for Rhino range states to declare stockpiles every two years. Kenya through this exercise is taking the lead in this aspect.

He observed that Kenya will be an example to be emulated by other rhino range states before the next AfRSG meeting in South Africa in February 2016.

As with Ivory, DNA samples from rhino horns will taken and it’s a great opportunity to populate RhODIS database which has proved useful in successfully and, thus combating illegal rhino horn trade.

Kenya became the latest member of the Giants Club. President Ali Bongo of Gabon and President Kaguta Musevini of Uganda have already joined. The leaders of Ethiopia, Tanzania and Sierra Leone have indicated the intention to join shortly.

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.

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.

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