Upcoming Meeting to decide future of Africa’s elephants

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Against the backdrop of an ever-escalating attack on Africa’s wildlife and the particularly alarming increase in ivory poaching, the International Union of Nature Conservation (IUCN) has convened a meeting in Gaborone, Botswana, from December 2-4.

“African elephant range states, as well as many of IUCN’s members, are concerned that this problem, increasingly entrenched in networks of organised crime, cannot be addressed by the actions of environment ministries and wildlife authorities alone,” says the IUCN.

At the last count, sub-Saharan Africa is home to fewer than 500 000 elephants. The current estimated off-take from poaching is assessed at 40 000 a year. Without accounting for growth rates it will be a mere ten years before the herds are exterminated.

The elephant problem is indicative of the onslaught that all African wildlife is facing, and without wildlife, Africa’s nature-based tourism industry will cease to exist.

The tourism industry currently employs 12.8 million people (direct and indirect) in sub-Saharan Africa and the social fallout of a collapse in the industry would be felt globally. Governments would also suffer a financial hit. Direct revenues from sub-Saharan African tourism industry were US$36 billion in 2012. This represents a total contribution (direct, indirect and induced) of 7.3% to GDP. The UNWTO predicts these figures will increase dramatically over the next decade.

The expected participants at the summit include heads of state and ministers of elephant range countries and key transit destination countries in the illegal African elephant ivory trade chain. Other participants include high-level officials from the IUCN, as well institutions and agencies that work in the fields of elephant conservation and the prevention of the illegal ivory trade.

The IUCN expects that any gains made through a focus on African elephants can be expected to benefit other work to control illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade, for example, rhino horn, lion bones and primates.