Elephant Crisis: 25 African Countries Sound The Alarm

Friday, September 7, 2012
Ouagadougou

A Coalition of 25 African States known as the African Elephant Coalition (AEC) met this week in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso to identify the urgent actions necessary to protect African elephants in the face of widespread and growing threats.  The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW - www.ifaw.org) played an active role at the meeting.

Of particular concern to AEC delegates are current levels of poaching and illegal ivory trade. 2011 was the worst on record, and 2012 could be even worse. According to a recent report submitted to the Parties to CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora), poaching is at its highest level in more than 2 decades. 

“Elephants will be wiped out in certain areas if these levels of poaching continue,” said Kelvin Alie, Director of IFAW’s Wildlife Crime program. “25 elephant range countries are raising the alarm here. It’s an historic event that reflects just how badly elephants are threatened. The world must sit up and take notice.”

The African Elephant Coalition members are determined to achieve a secure, safer, long-term future for their magnificent elephants and are appealing for international support at every level.  It is calling on developed countries and individuals to make a pledge to the African Elephant Fund today.

“The African Elephant Coalition members believe that elephants are a natural wonder of the world.  We are proud and honoured to have these remarkable animals in our countries, but they are disappearing fast from many places and action is needed now,” said Ibrahim Lankoande, Chair of the African Elephant Coalition meeting and Director General of the Forest and Wildlife Department, Burkina Faso.  

Delegates to the meeting set out the stark reality of what is happening to their elephants in the field, including:

  • More than 1600 poachers arrested in Kenya in the last month
  • Hundreds of elephants killed in a just a few weeks in Cameroon earlier this year
  • 250 elephants poached in Kenya so far this year
  • Elephant numbers in Zakouma National Park, Chad, down from over 4,000 in 2006 to 1,000 today.

“In 1970 my country was home to 70,000 elephants. Today as a result of poaching, and, primarily, significant transboundary poaching, our wildlife law enforcement officers are fighting to protect less than 200 individual survivors,” explained Jean-Baptiste Mamang-Kanga, Director of Fauna and Protected Areas in the Central African Republic. “We are really in a situation of crisis and I appeal to the international community to support the range States.”

Experts attending the meeting, which was opened by the Hon. Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development for Burkina Faso, Pr. Jean KOULIDIATI, agreed that reducing the seemingly insatiable demand for illegal ivory in countries such as China is essential. “It isn’t only our elephants that are being killed.  Our dedicated rangers in the field are losing their lives while trying to protect elephants from organised, well-armed and ruthless criminal gangs,” said Patrick Omondi, Senior Assistant Director for the Kenya Wildlife Service. “The death of these unsung heroes must not be in vain.”

In 2010, all 38 African elephant range States adopted an African Elephant Action Plan, which contains prioritised actions to tackle all key threats currently facing elephants. 

“The African Elephant Action Plan must be implemented in our countries as soon as possible,” said Fidelis Odiakaose Omeni of Nigeria.  “Nigeria sits on the Steering Committee of the African Elephant Fund, which is the funding mechanism for the Action Plan.  We are hopeful that the global community will understand how serious and urgent this crisis is, and donate to the African Elephant Fund.  With such support we can ensure that we don’t lose elephants from large parts of their range.”

“Earlier this year IFAW was the main funder of Operation WORTHY – an INTERPOL operation across 14 African countries targeting ivory poachers and traffickers,” continued Alie. “IFAW will continue to work with law enforcement agencies, governments and the public to increase protection for elephants but without an international outcry the impacts of these ground-breaking efforts may not be enough.”

Editor’s notes:

  1. The African Elephant Coalition comprises the following 26 countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Republic of Comoros, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Tchad, Togo.
  1. The African Elephant Coalition was formed in 2007 and held its first meeting in Bamako, Mali, in 2008.  Mali and Kenya served as Chair and Co-chair of the AEC from 2008 – 2012.  In 2012, Ibrahim Lakaonda (Burkina Faso) and Patrick Omondi (Kenya) were appointed as new Chair and Alternate Chair.
  1. Contact details for the African Elephant Coalition Chair and Alternate Chair:

Pierre Kafando,
Directeur de la Faune et des Chasses du Burkina Faso
Email: Pierre_kafando@yahoo.fr
Tel: +226 70 22 49 23

Patrick Omondi,
Senior Assistant Director, Species Conservation and Management,
Kenya Wildlife Service
Email: pomondi@kws.go.ke
Tel: +254 72 27 91 718

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