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GABORONE Botswana (Xinhua) — A woman poses for photos in front of an ivory sculpture at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport, in Gaborone, Botswana. Botswana President Seretse Khama Ian Khama has unveiled the sculpture made out of ivory recovered from naturally died elephants to demonstrate Botswana’s position in protection of natural resources. XINHUA PHOTO

Gaborone airport features elephant sculpture made out of ivory

GABORONE Botswana (Xinhua) -- Botswana’s President Seretse Khama Ian Khama has unveiled an elephant sculpture made out of ivory at the capital city of Gaborone to demonstrate its commitment to the protection of natural resources.

The sculpture made by full ivory tusks from nature died elephants was displayed at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport where government officials including Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi and cabinet ministers and foreign diplomats attended the unveiling.

The sculpture is intended to raise collective consciousness about the plight facing the African elephant today. The placement of the sculpture at the international airport represents the international dimension or magnitude of the Illegal Ivory Trade, said the president.

Most of the ivory that leaves African elephant range states finds its way out in the cargo holds of aircraft and the luggage of passengers.

Customs officials and airline staff now find themselves in the frontline pertaining to the battle to combat ivory trafficking, he said.

Africa’s elephant population is from 470,000 to 600,000, according to World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF). Botswana is home to approximately one third of this total.

The country conserves resident elephant herds of 140,000, migrant herds from 50,000 to 60,000 making the total to be possibly reached at around 200,000, said Tshekedi Khama, Botswana’s Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism at the unveiling.

Over 20,000 African elephants were poached across Africa in 2013, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)’s report showed.

The minister said year 2013-2014, Botswana’s poached elephants number was 38.

This is because all law enforcement agencies of Botswana are involved in anti-poaching duties, he said.

Meanwhile, the minister of environment also mentioned at the unveiling that the government is still facing challenge. Since becoming a middle income economy, Botswana has been "forgotten" by some of its traditional donors whose contribution directly related to anti-poaching, he said.

Khama said the most recent donations for wildlife protection the country has received are from Netherlands and China respectively.

The first one is 800,000 euro from Netherlands.

The second one is in this week, the Botswana government and the Chinese government on Tuesday jointly announced a donation of 1.7 million U.S dollars worth of goods from the Chinese government for wildlife protection.

Thursday’s unveiling is the country’s latest action on wildlife protection.

Earlier on Thursday, the Botswana government said it will not sell any ivory in response to a article reporting the country will seek permission to sell stock of tusks.

"As much as Botswana’s public campaigns have not included the burning of ivory confiscated from poachers and illicit traders, we have committed to ensuring that such specimen remain beyond any economic use," said the government.

Earlier this year, Botswana’s northern village Kasane hosted two international summits of wildlife protection—the African Elephant summit and The Kasane Conference on The Illegal Wildlife Trade.

Botswana is working with fellow African countries through regional initiatives such as the Southern African Development Community, Wildlife Protection and Law Enforcement Protocol to expand the scope of regional cooperation in the fight against wildlife poaching and trafficking, the elephant summit heard.

In 2014, the Botswana government, along with four other African elephant range states Chad, Ethiopia, Gabon and Tanzania launched the African Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI).

The EPI proposes a number of actions, including the removal of elephant ivory from economic use until the African elephant’s survival is no longer threatened by the illegal trade, underlining the need for closure of domestic ivory markets in this respect.
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