Does Kasane hold the key to unlocking action on the ground for elephants?

When will international attention result in tangible action on the ground and ultimately, a great reduction in wildlife poaching and illicit trade?In December 2014, at the IUCN African Elephant Summit in Gaberone, a number of governments agreed to a series of urgent measures to protect Africa’s elephants.

The meeting was one of many taking place at the time, all focused on drawing attention to the poaching crisis that elephant populations were facing in the wild, driven by an escalating demand for ivory, notably in China, and associated illicit trade.

There was also a renewed interest from the developed world, notably the US, in highlighting the crisis and providing the resources to try and address it.

Gaberone presented the first real opportunity, outside of the politics of the ivory trade debate at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), for African governments to sit down with the developed world and seriously talk about solutions to the crisis.

The urgent measures agreed to there, were impressive, to say the least.

Everything, from greatly improved regulatory frameworks in source, transit and end-user countries, to: greater inter-agency law enforcement cooperation at both a national and regional level; increased capacity for law enforcement; enhanced intelligence and information gathering; mobilising financial and technical resources; securing ivory stockpiles; increasing public awareness and demand reduction efforts; and engaging communities as part of the solution; was included, and more...

From Gaberone to the London Summit on Illegal Wildlife Trade last year, there have been some additional serious commitments. The London Summit Declaration reinforced the scale of the problem and went a step further than the Gaberone Summit in showcasing the UK Government’s commitment to dealing with the illegal wildlife trade.

It was reassuring to see yet another international commitment to addressing the problem.

Next week, we’re back to Botswana, this time to Kasane on the Chobe River, in the heart of Africa’s largest elephant population.

Kasane will host two back-to-back meetings in follow up to the Gaberone and London Summits and aims to evaluate the progress made since these previous deliberations.

While there has undoubtedly been a lot of progress in drawing attention to the problem, the big question on my mind is when will this attention result in tangible action on the ground and ultimately, a great reduction in poaching and illicit trade?

Does Kasane hold the key or is this just another opportunity for folks to gather and talk about the problems?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that action has to flow from higher-level commitments and that such gatherings are an extremely important step in the process. And, having followed deliberations at CITES for 18 years, I am relieved to see these discussions taking place in far less politicised forums.

But, there has to come a time when commitments on paper translate into action for animals on the ground.

We know what has to be done and we’ve seen many governments stepping up and making in-principle commitments to providing resources to address the problem. However, how can we get the resources closer to the problems on the ground?

Perhaps the focus of next week’s deliberations should be on operationalising resources towards impact-driven action.

We’re getting there and I hope that Kasane holds the key.

--JB

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