African summit announces urgent measures to protect elephants

African summit announces urgent measures to protect elephants

GABORONE, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- Delegates at the first ever African Elephant Summit announced on Tuesday urgent measures in a bid to reverse the trend in illegal killing of the mammal and the illegal ivory trade.

Speaking during the opening of the three day event, Julia Marton-Lefevre, Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said despite laudable successes in Botswana and across eastern and southern Africa, where concentrates a large elephant population, increasing threats are faced across much of the continent.

"Enduring poverty and rampant corruption, fuelled by an increasing demand from Asia, are creating an impossible situation for Africa's elephants," Marton-Lefevre said.

She said this summit is to commit implementing urgent measures to reverse the disturbing pattern of recent years.

Fourteen draft urgent measures were later announced by the summit, including a zero tolerance approach for wildlife crime, strengthen interagency cooperation in range, transit, and consumer states, enhance capacity of law enforcement and wildlife protection agencies at national level, mobilize financial and technical resources from various national and international sources, out national studies and public awareness programs, database building, etc.

Marton-Lefevre urged countries related to provide political support at the highest level to ensure the implementation of the urgent measures.

"We must address the issue of organized crime in ivory trafficking, and help to ensure that those responsible are apprehended and held accountable for their crimes -- facing tough penalties, including seizure of assets, that would act as effective deterrents," she said.

For his part, Botswana's president Ian Khama said at the opening that the growing trade in illegal ivory is a national issue, not a sectoral issue for many African countries.

"This requires leadership, commitment and direction at the highest political level to ensure that the necessary resources are made available for a highly integrated approach to law enforcement, " Khama said.

Botswana boasts of a healthy elephant population. An official survey in 2012 shows that elephant population stands over 200,000, the biggest population in Africa. This success is attributed to the tough protecting measures of Botswana government, which sees effective interagency cooperation involving police, defense forces, finance, customs, the judiciary and foreign affairs.

However, growing challenge faces the elephant population in other parts of Africa. According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora(CITES), new analyses released on Monday find that if poaching rates are sustained at current levels, Africa is likely to lose a fifth of its elephants in the next ten years. African elephant population is estimated at around 500,000.

The latest analysis of poaching data estimates that in 2012 some 15,000 elephants were illegally killed at 42 sites across 27 African countries participating in Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE), a program of CITES.

According to MIKE analysis, this amounts to an estimated 22,000 elephants illegally killed continent-wide in 2012, a slight reduction on the estimated 25,000 elephants poached in 2011. The situation is particularly acute in Central Africa, where the estimated poaching rate is twice the continental average.