Please Take part in the UK government and EU consultations on banning the ivory trade! Every day we don’t act means there are hundreds less elephants left in the world.
One day we might wake up and realise that while we have been ignoring the issue the world’s population of elephants has become extinct.
John Scanlon, 2016
There is a growing need for a more long-term approach to elephant conservation, one which establishes buffer and cross-border zones, links up protected and already established areas, involves and supports key stakeholders, and leads to the creation of a network of corridors and destinations large enough to support resident and migratory populations.
Initiatives are gathering pace throughout wild Africa. One excellent example is the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) in the North Eastern Province, where a switched-on NGO is empowering local communities, linking conservancies and recreating a wonderful north Kenyan wilderness. An equally fine example is Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (Kaza) which, with the help of the Peace Parks Foundation, has negotiated a free-to-range mandate for wildlife from five southern African countries, covering 520,000 square kilometres and linking 36 protected areas.
Both NRT and Kaza are subtle, nuanced and highly complex arrangements between multiple and, sometimes, competing stakeholders. The task of protecting wild African elephants is not simply seen as a moral obligation but as a significant wealth generator – something which is key to the strategy.
A dead adult elephant is worth around $21,000 (£17,000) in ivory sales. A live one is worth $1.6m (£1.3m) in tourist income. Proposing that the 11-year moratorium on ivory sales be lifted and the proceeds from confiscated stock sales be reinvested in local communities – as Namibia and Zimbabwe did at Cites (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) this year – therefore makes little sense. The return on ivory sales pales in comparison to the financial rewards generated by mixed land-use conservation strategies. The eco-tourist industry, which is driven and grown by elephants, is more than capable of compensating for land lost to migratory corridors.
What’s good for the elephant is good for the ecosystem as a whole, which is why countries like Zimbabwe and Namibia – both, incidentally, key players in the Kaza initiative – must be persuaded of the folly of ivory stock sales. It would send the wrong message to the world and, as previous one-off sales have shown, result in a rise in killings by poaching.