What you need to know:
- The foundation’s Chief Executive Officer John Scanlon noted that the ever worsening scenario of human wildlife conflict is a threat to the big mammal’s survival.
- The African Wildlife Foundation reports that an estimated 35,000 African elephants were getting killed by ivory poachers before the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
The Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI) has unveiled a plan to meet challenges of the 21st century as presented by Africa’s growing human population and economic development.
EPI is a group of 21 African countries dedicated to conserving elephants. Through its secretariat, the EPI Foundation has presented its master plan, entitled “Vision 2030”.
The foundation’s Chief Executive Officer John Scanlon noted that the ever worsening scenario of human-wildlife conflict is a threat to the big mammal’s survival.
“People and elephants are increasingly competing for land and dwindling natural resources. In recent years, we have witnessed a dramatic increase in human-elephant conflict across the continent. If these conflicts can’t be satisfactorily resolved, the long-term prospects for elephants are bleak,” Mr Scanlon said at the launch on Friday.
Since 2014 when it was founded, the alliance has focused on supporting the international freeze on elephant ivory trade and preventing Africa’s ivory stockpiles from leaking into the illegal market.
“These (ivory trade prevention) efforts will remain fundamental pillars of the EPI as will supporting national coordinated plans to manage elephants’, said Mr Scanlon.
He added that the scenario is shifting for elephants currently numbering 500,000, compared to 1.7 million in the 1970s.
Mr Scanlon also noted that efforts to conserve Africa’s elephant population are facing new challenges.
“We must acknowledge that threats to elephants are changing. Across Africa, elephants are losing their migratory routes, their habitats are under increasing threat, people are tragically being injured or killed, and farmers are seeing their crops destroyed,” he said.
For instance, between February and June 2020, the Uganda Wildlife Authority recorded 367 poaching cases across the country.
This was more than double the 163 cases recorded in the same period in 2019.
Scientists are also investigating the death of 280 elephants in Botswana between March and July 2020.
The African Wildlife Foundation reports that an estimated 35,000 African elephants were getting killed by ivory poachers before the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
In the ambitious document, the foundation will bring member countries together to share knowledge, experience and technologies, to mitigate and prevent conflict between humans and wildlife.
This cooperative effort will be achieved by working through EPI’s African leadership.
“The foundation will help African governments build a coordinated and collective response to managing these threats, and be a platform for them to share their positions and articulate their challenges to the rest of the world,” the document reads.
In a statement signed by the five members of the EPI’s Leadership Council, the EPI reiterated its commitment to saving Africa’s elephant population, and finding sustainable solutions to maintaining ecological balances in habitats while minimising conflicts between people and the animals.
“We are delighted that the EPI is repositioning its focus and expertise to prioritise human-elephant conflict. Together we need to find sustainable solutions, where people can prosper and our remaining elephants are safe,” read the statement.
“The collapse of tourism revenue as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic makes the challenge all the more urgent. We believe the EPI, with its continent-wide membership, is well placed to help find solutions.”
EPI’s Dr Winnie Kiiru, based in Kenya, shared the experience of a family bereaved following an elephant attack.
Dr Kiiru said the incident was only one of many that highlighted the need for workable solutions that will reduce injury and loss of life to people and elephants.
“Last week, on the edge of the Amboseli National Park, I met a Maasai family whose son was killed by an elephant while herding cattle. For such communities, a resolution to the human-elephant conflict is a matter of life and death,” she said.
“Our ability to resolve these conflicts will play a big part in determining whether elephants survive,” she added.
The five council members are Botswana’s former President Ian Khama, First Ladies Margaret Kenyatta (Kenya) and Fatima Maada Bio (Sierra Leone), former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and Gabon’s Forests and Environment Minister Lee White.