WildlifeDirect supports the African Elephant Coalition (AEC) in the call to the world to help save African elephants.
As an organization that has been in the forefront calling for a total ban on all ivory trade, WildlifeDirect urges other African countries not represented at the meeting held in Montreux, Switzerland from 24 to 26 June 2016 to join AEC in this call to save the our iconic species that are in danger of extinction if nothing is done.
In a press release by AEC, 29 member states call on all governments, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations for their support, and calls on citizens around the world to ask their respective governments and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) representatives to support the five proposals and to help the Coalition in its mission to list all elephants in Appendix I.
The Coalition of 29 African member states submitted to CITES five proposals designed to reverse the poaching crisis facing elephants and to put an end to the ivory trade to afford elephants the highest protection under international law.
AEC agreed to launch a social media campaign in a bid to gain support for the five proposals to the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) of CITES in September-October in Johannesburg, South Africa. We invite you to use the hashtags #WorthMoreAlive, #EndIvoryTrade and #Vote4Elephants to support the campaign.
Speaking at the meeting in Montreux, Bourama Niagaté from Mali, a member of the Council of the Elders for the Coalition noted that there was need for all relevant stakeholders to pull together for the sake of Africa’s elephants.
Kenya, a member state of AEC has taken a zero tolerance approach to poaching and ivory trafficking.
In April this year, Kenya took a bold step in burning 105 tons of ivory and 1.5 tons of rhino horn. This is reportedly the world’s largest stockpile of elephant ivory and rhino horns ever to be burnt. The historic burn demonstrated Kenya’s commitment to seeking a total global ban of ivory and rhino horns.
Speaking at the burn, President Uhuru Kenyatta said, “by destroying ivory we declare once and for all that our national heritage is not for sale”. The only value that ivory has is tusks on a live elephant.
It is this commitment from the highest level of government and collaboration with conservationists and law enforcement that has seen Kenya achieve 80 percent reduction in deaths of elephants in the last three years.
It was a pleasure to listen and watch Jonathan Scott LIVE in studio. Many have watched him on Big Cat Diaries but few have ever met him. Along with Dr. Paula Kahumbu, WildlifeDirect CEO and Paula Mbugua from KWS, they talked about the new series #NTVWild that Premieres on NTV KENYA on Saturday January 16, 2016
Kenyans take to the streets in support of elephants and rhinos. Global March for Elephants and Rhinos, Nairobi, October 3rd, 2015. Photograph: WildlifeDirect
Since 2013, according to the latest estimates, elephant deaths from poaching in Kenya are down by 80% and deaths of rhinos by 90%. This is a success story that deserves to be more widely known.
Kenya was traditionally in the forefront of wildlife conservation in Africa. However, in 2008 the sale of ivory from four southern African countries to China and Japan triggered an explosive demand and poaching erupted across the continent.
By 2012, the situation was almost out of control in Kenya due to corruption, ignorance, poor laws, and an inadequate anti-poaching response. Government agencies such as the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) were in denial.
I was among the many conservationists who felt angry and frustrated at the government’s refusal to respond to our concerns. One of our colleagues was arrested and others went into hiding for fear of being deported for exposing how serious the poaching crisis was.
The turning point came in February 2013 when the government finally agreed to call a special session of the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) to discuss wildlife conservation. This landmark meeting was attended by many dozens of representatives of ministries, law enforcement agencies, the private sector, academia and civil society.
It was a tough-talking meeting. We challenged the government’s complacent view of the situation and questioned the capacity and commitment of KWS and border agencies to control poaching and trafficking.
Leading Kenyan conservationists, including Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Agatha Juma and Jake Grieves Cook, warned that thousands of elephants were being killed each year and of the threat this posed to tourism and the economy
Representatives of the Ministry of Environment and Wildlife and KWS denied the situation was a crisis; however, they did ask the government for support to tackle the growing poaching problem.
Richard Leakey and I spoke for WildlifeDirect and we presented a 14 point plan of action that had been developed with barrister Shamini Jayanathan. After intensive discussions the NESC adopted most of our recommendations and instructed authorities to urgently adopt a ‘whole government’ response to the crisis.
The NESC meeting was the first major effort of the Hands Off Our Elephants campaign, which was officially launched five months later. Our aims were simple: to bring all sectors of society on board in order to defeat the poachers and traffickers, safeguard elephant populations, and turn Kenya into model for successful wildlife conservation.
The First Lady of Kenya, Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta (centre with hat) in her role as Patron of the campaign “Hands Off Our Elephants”, launched in 2013. The marchers are accompanying Jim Nyamu (in the beige t-shirt) on part of his walk across Kenya to raise awareness about poaching. Photograph: WildlifeDirect
Our initiative was coolly received in some quarters. Government officials accused us of being unpatriotic by damaging Kenya’s reputation abroad. Some fellow conservationists said we were being too ambitious.
We knew it would be difficult but we were confident that our aims were achievable, for three reasons:
Kenya has a vibrant civil society and a free press, so we would have the means to get our message across.
We had support in high places. The new President Uhuru Kenyatta, who took up office in April 2013, was known to be sympathetic to wildlife conservation. His wife, Margaret Kenyatta joined the campaign from the outset as its patron.
Kenya had done it before, in the 1990s, when KWS routed the poachers under the leadership of Richard Leakey, and President Daniel Arap Moi transformed global attitudes towards ivory by burning Kenya’s ivory stockpile.
Seven strategies for success
Looking back at what Hands Off Our Elephants has achieved so far, in an informal ‘mid-term evaluation’, I can identify seven things that have worked:
1. An evidence based approach. In making our case, we knew it would be not enough to rely on hearsay. We presented the results of 5 years of courtroom monitoring to prove that those arrested for wildlife crimes were being let off scot free or at most with derisory fines. We demanded – and got – an audit of Kenya’s ivory stockpile, overseen by independent observers.
Paula Kahumbu handing over the “Scoping study on the prosecution of wildlife related crimes in Kenyan courts” on behalf of WildlifeDirect to the Chief Justice Willy Mutunga in January 2014. Photograph: WildlifeDirect
2. Mobilizing public support. We took our campaign into government offices and corporate board rooms, onto the streets and into schools and universities, and into the villages in areas that have elephants. We spoke to young people in language they would understand, with the support of pop stars, comic book authors, and sports personalities. In alliance with private sector, we took the message into supermarkets and onto airplanes.
This broad-based alliance has succeeded in generating a level of popular support for wildlife conservation never before witnessed in Kenya, or any other elephant range state.
3. Mainstream media coverage. Our campaign transformed poaching from a wildlife conservation issue to headline news. Conservationists gave extensive TV interviews in prime-time current affairs slots, with the focus squarely on political, juridical and institutional capacity issues.
If you are reading this in Europe or North America, you might like to ask yourself when wildlife conservation was last given this treatment by media in your own country.
4. Political will. We were fortunate in this respect. In his inaugural address President Kenyatta signalled his intentions by referring to poaching as ‘economic sabotage’, and followed this up with a series of key measures to strengthen the law and the judiciary.
The First Lady, Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta, made it clear that she intended to take an even more proactive role. She agreed to be Patron of Hands Off Our Elephants and has been a central figure in the campaign ever since.
Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources has been behind us all the way, as have US and British ambassadors Bob Godec and Christian Turner. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has convened meetings to create awareness of the problem amongst all Kenya-based diplomats.
US Ambassador Robert Godec with school children from Nairobi on a visit to Amboseli National Park. World Elephant Day, 12 August 2015. Photograph: WildlifeDirect
5. Boots on the ground. One of President Kenyatta’s first acts was to announce additional funds to finance anti-poaching activities, allowing the recruitment of 577 more rangers. He created a specialised multi-agency anti-poaching unit and brought all law enforcement agencies together to tackle the ivory trafficking problem in a coordinated way.
As a result, poachers are more likely to be caught than ever before. But we knew that this would have no deterrent effect unless getting arrested led to some serious consequences. That’s why the next two success factors were key.
6. Strengthening the law. Wildlife law before 2013 treated poaching as a petty offence. Maximum penalties were derisory compared to the vast profits that were being made by organised wildlife crime. We lobbied with many other NGOs and citizen groups for a new Wildlife Act.
The new act finally came into force in January 2104, making poaching and ivory trafficking a serious crime in Kenya, on a par with gun running and drug trafficking. Penalties for wildlife crime in Kenya are now the harshest in the world, including life imprisonment in some cases.
7. Reforms to the criminal justice system. Our courtroom monitoring program had exposed major challenges in record keeping, evidence collection, and prosecutions. The handling of wildlife trials has been transformed through the creation of a specialised wildlife crime prosecution unit under the office of the Public Prosecutor, combined with new operating procedures and extensive training programmes for legal staff.
Being arrested for poaching or ivory trafficking in Kenya has become a big deal.
Measures of success
Summarising the results of my mid-term evaluation: Kenya has managed to turn around the poaching crisis in a remarkably short time. This is in large part thanks to the support of NGOs – large and small – working with the private sector, government, and the donor community. All Kenyans can be proud of this impressive achievement.
Several poachers have gone to jail for life, and many have been fined hundreds of thousands of US Dollars. Jailing of convicted poachers is up from 4 to 11%. Suspected traffickers have had their assets seized and bank accounts frozen, as the law on proceeds of organized crime can now be applied to wildlife crimes.
Poachers are giving up the trade because of the high likelihood of arrest, and the knowledge that it will lead to prosecution and a jail sentence. This is reflected in the dramatic decline in poaching: the ‘bottom line’ that is the most important indicator of the success of our campaign.
Perhaps most importantly, for the first time in Kenya’s its history, Kenya is prosecuting major ivory traffickers. One of the most notorious suspected traffickers, Feisal Mohamed Ali, was arrested with the support of Interpol following the seizure of huge haul of ivory in Mombasa. He has remained behind bars to face trial since December 2014.
The continuing threat
While Kenya can celebrate success today, we cannot be complacent. Just next door in Tanzania thousands of elephants are being gunned down annually and their population has been reduced by over 60 percent in just 5 years. Meanwhile in South Africa, over a thousand rhinos are murdered for their horns each year.
These killing fields will expand back into Kenya without concerted international efforts to reduce demand for ivory and rhino horn.
In Kenya, several factors threaten the sustainability of our successes. By far the most serious of these is the pervasive corruption that disfigures Kenyan society. It seems that corruption is rarely out of the news these days: it threatens the democracy that is bedrock of all our achievements so far.
The power of corrupt money is undoubtedly the reason why, in contrast to the harsh sentences imposed on poachers – the small fry – and despite the arrest of Feisal Mohamed Ali, no trafficker has yet been convicted and sent to jail under the new law.
The way forward
So what comes next? Hands Off Our Elephants will continue to expand its operations in Kenya while coordinating with partners across Africa to replicate our efforts in neighbouring countries. The campaign will focus on key new demands, including:
Corruption should be included among the named charges for wildlife offenders and in cases where police and customs officers, and other government officials are involved.
Existing high level cases should be brought to a rapid conclusion. Every delay increases the opportunities for evidence to be ‘lost’ and witnesses to ‘disappear’.
The must be an end the practice of deporting foreign nationals arrested for ivory trafficking. They should be tried in Kenyan courts. Traffickers should know that if they are caught with ivory at a Kenyan port or airport they can expect to spend the rest of their lives in a Kenya jail.
Visitors to Kenya and those in transit must be made aware of the new law and the penalties for poaching in order to reduce demand.
Kenya’s must destroy its entire ivory stockpile as a signal to the world that no Kenyan ivory will ever again enter into legal or illegal markets.
Above all, there is a need to strengthen accountability by giving civil society a permanent role in monitoring living and dead animals, seizures of illegal wildlife products, and the government’s response to wildlife crime.
The good news is that the foundations for this have been laid by the campaign itself, which has given rise to unprecedented levels of collaboration between government and civil society.
In recognition of the key importance of civil society organisations for wildlife conservation, NGOs have recently come together to form the “Conservation Alliance of Kenya”, a permanent stakeholder forum which will advise government on environmental issues. One of the key thematic groups that has been set up will address wildlife crime.
Thus democracy is not only the rock on which we build our campaigns. The campaigns themselves are an integral part of wider efforts to strengthen democracy.
Our African-led initiative to save elephants and wildlife is driven by a wider vision of an inclusive, prosperous African future; an Africa with effective governance and a vibrant civil society, and proud of its rich natural and cultural heritage.
The Wildlife Warriors event at Brookhouse School attracted nearly twice as many people as we expected. Though we
targeted young people from Nairobi, grandparents, teachers, and many grown ups from all corners of the country
including expatriates came. This revealed a surprising level of interest in citizen participation. It also confirmed that young people feel that their
views about wildlife conservation are as important as those of adults. Hundreds of recommendations about creating a
generation of Wildlife Warriors were generated which revealed some general findings.
We are pleased to finally release the report of the first ever Open Space Technology event to be held in Nairobi. We apologize for the delay in getting this report out to the public and welcome comments on it. Please find the soft copy version of the report here
Kenya’s First Lady at the Launch of the Womens Project in Imbirikani
IMBIRIKANI WOMENS PROJECT WITH UNDP AND WILDLIFEDIRECT ON 23RD OCTOBER, 2015
Her Excellency, Margaret Kenyatta, The First Lady of the Republic of Kenya’s speech at the launch event on Friday.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Just over a year ago, we announced our intention to start a project here aimed at women’s empowerment and elephant conservation, in collaboration with Helen Clark the Administrator of UNDP.
I am delighted to return here today to witness the official launch of this project which remains very close to my heart. Although Helen Clark could not be here with us today, I am sure that she is with us in spirit.
In 2013, I joined WildlifeDirect as the patron of the Hands off Our Elephants Campaign.
The campaign has made great strides in raising public awareness and mobilizing support for the protection of our elephants:
And has successfully used the Amboseli National Park as a showcase of excellent conservation partnerships between host communities, government, scientists, NGO’s and international partners.
The stakeholders have closely worked together to protect the worlds’ most famous elephants and I wish to thank all of you, for playing such an important role in that effort.
To save the elephants, we need the support of the host communities who live with them. They are the most important and first line of defence for these treasured animals.
Women are known to play an important role when it comes to conservation issues world over. Which is why we are investing in women projects in this region, because we can count on you to protect our elephants. Women are never known to kill the elephants.
In this regard, we already have wonderful role models right here, two Maasai sisters, Katito and Soila Sayialel who are amongst the world’s most famous experts on elephants; they are both Maasai women from this community!
I thank you both for your dedication and contribution which has made this community so important for the future of our elephants.
Elephants, are truly magnificent to visiting tourists, but can also be a terrifying threat for individual families and farmers.
I thank the UNDP for making it possible for us to turn this challenge into an opportunity for women, their families, their communities, and for Kenya.
I am also grateful that the women of Imbirikani have accepted the challenge to pilot this ambitious idea, of turning challenges into opportunities.
They have worked so hard on this project despite all the difficulties they face on a daily basis – fetching firewood, collecting water, herding livestock, managing their homes, their children and families.
For our women to effectively play their rightful role in conservation matters, it calls for their empowerment through education; additional investments in women projects and eradication of retrogressive cultural practices that limit their opportunities and possibilities.
As a country, we must realize that the absence of women in our economy, especially in rural areas, is holding back our development and our ability to achieve our aspirations to be a wealthy nation.
This project is a boost for those women who want to do business and it launch marks the beginning of a major opportunity for Amboseli.
I request the County Government of Kajiado through the governor, Dr. David Nkedienye, to support the women and facilitate the marketing of the products from this group; improve their health care and also focus on improving the schools to ensure the girls get quality education.
I am truly humbled to have played a role in this exciting project and I am very grateful to all those who have partnered with us especially Big Life Foundation who have been in Amboseli for over thirty years.
I am especially grateful to you, the women involved in this project for your courage and determination to make this project succeed.
It is now my pleasure to declare the Imbirikani Women Group Project officially open.
WLD Project Officer Robert Kaai shows the First Lady the products made by the women
We will be sharing more information on the work we will be doing in 2016 soon. Meanwhile, you can start guessing what the adventure will be.
We are priviledged to have excellent partners:
Kenya Wildlife Service has granted us access to the Amboseli National Park; Ol Tukai Lodge offered full board accommodation; Sunworld Safaris graciously donated the use of an excellent vehicle during this exercise and Two amazing women, Usha Harish, an exceptional photographer and Soila Saiyalel – an excellent Elephant expert have spent hours photographing elephant families in the park.
We look forward to seeing what they have gathered soon
Vehicle donated by Sun World Safaris
Selfie with the Elephants?
With the Staff of Ol Tukai Lodge and Elephants in the background
Usha & Soila with the Staff of Ol Tukai Lodge outside the Lodge
Soila doing what she does best – Observing and Identifying Elephants
On Wednesday, WildlifeDirect initiated a new community enterprise project funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and in collaboration with the Her Excellency, The First Lady Margaret Kenyatta in Imbirikani, Amboseli.
The project inception meeting was held at the Big Life foundation bringing together over 100 women from three different groups in the area and representatives from UNDP and the community.
The greater Amboseli landscape plays a major role in Kenya’s tourism industry, however its biodiversity particularly its magnificent its elephants is threatened by habitat degradation and issues of human-wildlife conflict and poaching. The communities in this area practice livestock farming and this is their major source of income. Both livelihoods, as currently practiced, are unsustainable, in terms of both natural resource degradation and the extent to which they conflict with the natural movements of wildlife, in particular, elephants are heavily persecuted due to the damages they inflict on crops.
Under this tremendous project, the women groups will be empowered and trained to come up with new ideas which will be funded by UNDP for a period of one year, in a community where men are considered leaders of household with women playing very little roles. This project proposes to empower the Maasai women to take control of their future and have the capacity to plan and implement their own income generating activities. It will result in the development and marketing of three women’s enterprise utilizing existing groups in the Mbirikani conservancy that are linked to the sustainable use of natural resources.
There is an urgent need to diversify livelihoods in the communities away from both pastoralism and agriculture towards sustainable management of natural resources and other conservation- related activities, so that both wildlife and the communities may continue to co-exist in greater harmony and the ecosystem can be restored to health, providing critical ecosystem services, robust against climate change. This project will help identify potential markets for the women groups and also connect them with buyers for their products.
‘’We need to look at this project at a larger scale and give it the urgency it deserves, we want to make sure at the end of this one year we should have achieved our set goals’’, Paula Kahumbu, CEO WildlifeDirect, said.
‘’it is very important that we quickly agree on the project projects that we need to implement within the stipulated project time that will turn out to be profitable businesses and so I want to thank all the men and women who have come to support this women in this project’’
WildifeDirect will help the women groups in the implementation of the project under the leadership of Community Project Officer, Robert Kaai and Dr.Kahumbu promised to give the women groups enough to ensure the project is a success.
David Githaiga, Team Leader, Energy, environment and Climate Change, UNDP Kenya promised the women groups that UNDP is very much committed to the project, promising the funds for the project are already available. He said the project is a very good initiative to empower women in this region and said the funds will be released in four quarters immediately after identifying the enterprise to invest in.
Women groups, WLD and UNDP staff after the meeting
Mandela of the Sarabi Band performs during the Ndovu Zetu concert
On the last day of February this year, some of the top most bands in Kenya put up a grand show…wait for it…for elephants!
Sauti Sol, Sarabi band, Juliani, Muthoni Drummer Queen, Emmanuel Jal were among the top artists that performed at the Ndovu Zetu concert on 28th February, at the United Nations Recreational Grounds. This was the first time that a concert was held in Kenya just for elephants.
It was also the first time that ‘Tusimame’- an elephant anthem song was performed live for the very first time. Tusimame was written and performed by various artists including former South Sudan child soldier Emmanuel Jal, Juliani, Syssi Mananga from Congo-Brazzaville and Vanessa Mdee from Tanzania.
Over 1,000 people attended the concert.
“We are excited to be hosting a show just for elephants,” said Dr Paula Kahumbu, the CEO of WildlifeDirect. WildlifeDirect, whose patron is the First Lady Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta, is the main sponsor of the concert, working in conjunction with the Kenya Wildlife Service, the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources.
Baraza of the Sauti Sol charges the crowds during the Ndovu Zetu Concert
This concert was the kick-off event of the Kenya Wildlife Festival. The Kenya Wildlife festival is an initiative of the Kenya Wildlife Service and the ministry of Environment Water and Natural Resources and several conservation organisations to create awareness among the public and celebrate Kenya’s wealth and natural heritage in wildlife.
“People do great things for people and causes they love and believe in. Were doing this for elephants because we love them. Like humans, elephants feel, worry, play, hurt, mourn, remember. Elephants are human too”
And the reasons to celebrate our elephants are many!
Kenya hosts the world’s most famous elephant research project ; the Save The Elephants and the Amboseli Trust for Elephants. The Amboseli Trust for elephants has been running for 40years. All the elephants at the Amboseli eco system are known by names and their families. Save the Elephants operates on Northern Kenyan where they have been on the frontline to take poaching down and create awareness about elephants conservation.
Paula Kahumbu addresses the crowd during the Ndovu Zetu Concert
Kenya is also home to the David Sheldrick Elephant Wildlife Trust which hosts the world’s most successful orphan–elephant rescue and rehabilitation centre.
But the truth remains that African elephants face imminent extinction if nothing is done to save them. Approximately 33,000 elephants are killed every year across Africa to supply the ivory market especially in Asia. Dr Kahumbu explains that in Kenya, we have made huge strides in the last couple of years in efforts to protect our elephants. But a lot still needs to be done.
“The public is better informed and engaged now, a suspected ivory kingpin, Feisal Mohamed Ali, is behind bars and the poaching level is down. But we still need to win the hearts and minds of Kenyans of all walks of life; we hope that every Kenyan will know of the benefits of elephants not only to our ecosystems but to our economy as well. At WildlifeDirect, our goal is to get all Kenyans and Africans to love our elephants so much that extinction is no longer a threat”
Part of the crowd at the Ndovu Zetu concert
The Ndovu Zetu concert and the Kenya Wildlife Festival was aimed at winning the hearts and minds of everyone, big and small, young and old. To have every Kenyan loathing poaching and trafficking and become our brothers keepers to watch that no one is poaching our elephants or trafficking ivory to satisfy their greed.
China must act, but Africa take the lead to stop ivory trade
By Paula Kahumbu with Andrew Hallyday
Workers destroy confiscated ivory in Dongguan, southern Guangdong province, China, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. Photograph: Vincent Yu/AP
A major new study provides disturbing proof that the crisis facing African elephants is even worse than people imagined, driven by the exploding trade in illegal ivory in China.
The study, written by ivory market researchers Lucy Vigne and Esmond Martin, and funded by Save the Elephants (STE) and the Aspinall Foundation, found that skyrocketing demand for ivory in China has sparked a booming trade in smuggled ivory. There are ever greater numbers of items on sale, carving factories, and legal and illegal retail outlets.
The expanding legal trade provides a perfect cover for laundering vast quantities of illegal ivory. The Chinese government is taking some measures to control the illegal ivory market, but it’s not doing enough. The situation is currently out of control.
The study concludes: “without China’s leadership in ending demand for ivory Africa’s elephants could disappear from the wild within a generation.”
This conclusion seems self evident. In fact this point has been made time and again. For example, an article published in Time magazine almost exactly a year ago concluded that if the Chinese authorities don’t act fast, we could be heading toward a future without elephants.
What’s depressing is that so little has changed, despite the impassioned rhetoric of world leaders, high profile campaigns celebrities and British royals, and the sterling efforts of campaigning organisations like STE. To make change happen I suggest we need to challenge the notion of “China’s leadership” on two counts.
First, although Chinese action is essential to save Africa’s elephants, the leadership should come from Africa. While China may face a “conservation challenge” as stated in the title of the report, it is Africa’s elephants that are facing extinction.
Young demonstrators sit with a placard as they prepare to take part in the “Global March for Elephants and Rhinos” in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014. Photograph: Ben Curtis/AP
Unfortunately, despite growing civil society engagement with wildlife issues, so far few African leaders have demonstrated they are serious about taking action. One of them, President Khama of Botswana, recently asked me, despairingly: “Where is the pride of Africa? Why aren’t we setting the agenda here? It is we who have the elephants.”
A recent Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) report made some highly publicised claims about involvement of visiting Chinese officials in ivory smuggling out of Tanzania. These claims were furiously – and unconvincingly – denied by Chinese authorities. What got less publicity was the much longer part of the EIA report analysing ingrained institutional corruption in Tanzania and the complicity of Tanzanian authorities in the illegal ivory trade.
Africans will not have the political or moral authority to make demands on the Chinese until we put our own house in order.
Secondly we have to stop thinking about “China” as a monolith – a single actor in the unfolding drama.
China is a highly complex society. The dynamic of ivory trade is driven by interactions among a wide range of actors. Political leaders, government officials, organised criminals, consumers and civil society organisations all contribute to the illegal ivory trade and attempts to control it in different ways. We need to understand their roles and target our actions and campaigns accordingly.
For example, was the ivory spending spree by the Chinese delegation in Tanzania sanctioned ‘from above’ or was it a case of lower-level officials getting out of control? In the first case, a high level diplomatic protest might be in order. But in the second case it might be more effective to engage with Chinese civil society organizations already combating corrupts officials at home.
Consumers who purchase ivory are also driven by different motives. The report suggests that “investors banking on continued rises in the price of ivory appear to be a significant factor in the recent boom, rather than buyers of traditional ivory carvings”.
This is important information. Buyers of handicrafts might well be swayed by awareness raising campaigns, but law enforcement is likely to be a more effective strategy against unscrupulous investors – and of course also against the organised crime networks that supply them.
Let’s be clear: China is also a highly centralised society. If the Chinese nation is contributing to the ongoing extinction of Africa’s elephants – as it is – the Chinese government deserves the lion’s share of the blame.
But, here again, we need to understand China better in order to know the best way to the influence Chinese authorities. China’s leaders are sensitive to pressure from foreign governments— and the hard evidence of reports by organizations like STE and EIA. It was notable that the first online report I found of the press conference in Nairobi today to launch the report was a long article in the South China Morning Post.
But Chinese authorities are also sensitive to pressure from an increasing confident civil society inside China. A recent visit to China by two young African activists, Christopher Kiarie of WildlifeDirect and Resson Kantai of STE, provided encouraging evidence of the potential for linkages between African and Chinese civil society organizations, to work together to increase pressure on the Chinese government to change.
A joined-up strategy led by Africans at all levels of society offers the best chance of success in these desperate times.
WildlifeDirect Welcomes Statement by Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu on Destruction of Ivory Stockpiles in Kenya
The Chairman of WildlifeDirect Kenya, Philip Murgor, and the CEO of WildlifeDirect, Dr Paula Kahumbu, would like to strongly support the Cabinet Secretary for Environment , Water and Natural Resources, Judi Wakhungu, for her statement and stand in regard to ivory stockpiles in Kenya.
“At WildlifeDirect, we are very pleased that the minister has openly advocated for the destruction of ivory stockpiles in Kenya,” said Dr Kahumbu. “We agree with the minister, that the only way of stopping the ivory from getting into the market is by destroying it. Our elephants are facing extinction, and we must do what it takes to conserve them, not just for us but as a world heritage”.
The cabinet secretary was quoted in a media report this week, saying that ivory stockpiles should be destroyed to keep them from getting back into the market, adding that the move will deter the supply and demand for ivory.
On his part, the chairman Philip Murgor said that Kenya had demonstrated leadership and courage to go against the grain in the late 80s, when the then president Daniel Moi destroyed 12 tonnes of ivory in order to persuade the world to end trade in ivory.
“This bold move worked in the 90s. Elephant numbers began to rise across the continent. It can work again, and the current trend of 35,000 elephants killed every year in Africa can be reversed. We are very pleased that the current leadership appreciates the significance of destroying ivory stockpiles”.
For more information, please contact Dr Paula Kahumbu on 0722 685 106 or Bertha Kang’ong’oi on 0720 712 730.
WildlifeDirect is separately registered in the US (501-(c)3 not for profit) and Kenya (not for profit), aimed at helping endangered animals worldwide. No administration fee is taken for the funds that are transferred through us so that the financial support, net only of bank fees, can go where it was intended in its entirety.
WildlifeDirect ensures that 100% of your financial support (net of bank transfer fees) reaches your intended purpose.
Thank you for your support towards the core costs of WildlifeDirect.