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UNEP sounds alarm on declining elephant population in Africa

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The UN Environment Program (UNEP) on Thursday sounded alarm on the decline of African elephant population occasioned by poaching and climatic stress.

Deputy Executive Director of UNEP Ibrahim Thiaw warned that a shrinking population of elephants portends serious threat to economies, livelihoods and ecosystems in the continent.

While reacting to results of the Great Elephant Census that indicated the population of giant mammals in Africa had declined by 30 percent between 2007 to 2014, Thiaw urged concerted efforts to reverse the grim scenario.

The findings of the census show that poaching is still decimating elephant herds across Africa.

It reveals that over 144,000 elephants were lost in the 15 African countries over a seven-year period mainly because of poaching.

Thiaw said many African countries are grappling with decline in elephant population hence the need for collective action on the crisis.

UNEP has supported multilateral initiatives aimed at combating threats to African elephants, including poaching and shrinking habitat.

Thiaw said robust public private sector initiatives launched in recent years to strengthen protection of African elephants have started paying dividends.

He added that African governments and local communities have also recognized the need to strengthen protection of elephants given their enormous economic and aesthetic value.



African governments urged to do better job in fighting wildlife trafficking

KIGALI Rwanda (Xinhua) -- Conservationists have challenged African policymakers to take more concrete and organized measures to stamp out wildlife trafficking in a just ended African conservation and tourism forum.

As part of the solutions, the conservationists called on regional countries to revise the existing law and pass a wildlife law-specific statute, build and strengthen education capacity of wildlife law enforcement, especially during cadet training.

The recommendations were made at the conclusion of a two-day meeting dubbed Kwita Izina Conversation on Conservation 2016, in Kigali on Tuesday.

The event was held under the theme: “United in driving economic growth through conservation.”

The meeting called on governments to recognize conservation as a pillar or driver of the broader economic agenda and incentivize conservation by creating a conducive environment.

“Inculcate accountability and transparency in the management of wildlife, put in place stricter border and customs control...develop coordinated and cooperative law enforcement approaches,” the resolutions issued at the end of the meeting said.

Michel Masozera, Country Program Director for Wildlife Conservation Society, said, “We conserve to sustain. Policies need to be translated into concrete actions or else wildlife faces a risk of extinction.”

According to international police organization Interpol, over 25 billion U.S. dollars per year is fetched out of wildlife trafficking across the world.

Earlier, Jim Karani, a Legal Affairs Manager at Wildlife Direct (Kenya) decried the fact that wildlife traffickers seem more organized than policymakers.

He attributed this to inactive laws, lack of transparency and accountability in government institutions as well as unsatisfactory social welfare of conservationists.

Rwanda’s Inspector General of Police, Emmanuel Gasana, said challenges to combat wildlife trafficking lie within the lack of political will.

“We face difficulties in gathering evidences and defining actors involved in illegal trade of wildlife products, because there are normally syndicates and it becomes difficult for law enforcers and other actors to unmask the whole network,” said Gasana.

Rhino horns, ivory, hides and skins of big cats and reptiles are among the trafficked wildlife products.

Rwanda last month intercepted a total of 168 kg of elephant tusks involving 14 suspects.


Kenya says China’s diplomatic clout key to total ban on ivory trade

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- China’s diplomatic clout will re-energize the push for a total ban on ivory trade during the upcoming Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species (CITES), Kenyan officials said on Monday.

Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources Judi Wakhungu said Kenya is counting on China to back its push for a total ban on ivory trade at the CITES meeting to be held in Johannesburg from Sept. 24 to Oct. 5.

Kenya has developed fourteen proposals that call for concerted efforts to protect rare flora and fauna from extinction linked to human actions and climate shocks.

According to Wakhungu, Kenya will lobby the international community to lift the status of African elephant from Appendix two to one, given the grave threats facing the giant mammals.

“A coalition of 28 African elephant range states has supported our proposal calling for renowned attention to the dire plight of these mammals linked to poaching,” said Wakhungu.

“The presidents of China and the United States last year made a commitment to promote wildlife protection in Africa. We are hopeful this gesture will inject fresh impetus in the push for total ban on ivory trade in both domestic and overseas markets,” Wakhungu said.

She added that the torching of 105 tonnes of elephant tusks and 1.03 tonnes of rhino horns by President Uhuru Kenyatta on April 30th this year reaffirmed Kenya’s uncompromising stand against illegal trade in wildlife products.

Margaret Mwakima, principal secretary in the state department of natural resources, said poaching in Kenya has declined by 90 percent in the last two years thanks to support from bilateral allies such as China.

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