Leading conservation organizations joined six African countries today in a commitment to protect wild elephants in their last strongholds, reduce wildlife trafficking, and dampen consumer demand for ivory. The commitment is supported with a U.S.$80-million action plan to strengthen security for elephants in their range while investing more in intelligence networks, customs inspections, and consumer education.
The Partnership to Save Africa’s Elephants was announced at an event convened by the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in New York. The partnership is led by five “Commitment Makers” — Wildlife Conservation Society, African Wildlife Foundation, Conservation International, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and World Wildlife Fund — with “Commitment Partners” support by the National Geographic Society, African Parks Network, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Frankfurt Zoological Society, Freeland Foundation, Howard Buffett Foundation, International Conservation Caucus Foundation, Save the Elephants, TRAFFIC, WildAid and WildLifeDirect.
Nations joining in commitment include Botswana, Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Kenya, South Sudan, Malawi, and Uganda.
“The situation involving Africa’s elephants today is tragic,” said Terry Garcia, National Geographic Society Executive Vice President for Mission Programs. “National Geographic will work hard to bring attention to the slaughter and the ivory trade that drives it.”
The Press Release
Conservation groups announced today a three-year U.S.$80 million Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to Action that will bring together NGOs, governments, and concerned citizens to stop the slaughter of Africa’s elephants, which are being decimated due to poaching for ivory. The Commitment Makers and their partners commit to funding and facilitating partnerships to advance a new three-pronged strategy that will catalyze a global movement to coordinate and leverage influence, constituencies, and resources to protect key elephant populations from poaching while reducing trafficking and demand for ivory. Funding for this commitment has been provided by myriad public and private sources, including U.S., European, and African governments; along with multi-lateral institutions, foundations, and concerned individuals. Nations joining in the commitment include: Botswana, Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Kenya, South Sudan, Malawi, and Uganda.
These funds will be used to support national governments to scale up anti-poaching enforcement at the 50 priority elephant sites including hiring and supporting an additional 3,100 park guards. In addition, anti-trafficking efforts will be increased by strengthening intelligence networks and penalties for violations and adding training and sniffer dog teams at 10 key transit points. New demand reduction efforts will be implemented in 10 consumer markets over the next three years.
Further, leaders from African nations led a call for other countries to adopt trade moratoria on all commercial ivory imports, exports and domestic sales of ivory products until African elephant populations are no longer threatened by poaching.
The commitment was announced at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting underway in New York City. CGI’s 2013 theme, Mobilizing for Impact, explores ways that CGI members and member organizations can be more effective in leveraging individuals, partner organizations, and key resources in their commitment efforts.
Today’s announcement is the culmination of work by Secretary Clinton while serving as Secretary of State, as well as Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton’s engagement, who visited conservation sites on a trip with the Clinton Foundation to Africa this summer. Together, they have convened the NGOs and nations to ensure rapid progress to a solution to prevent the extinction of Africa’s elephants and the proliferation of the violence caused by the criminal syndicates wiping out the elephants.
In addition to the funds already committed, the partnership urgently seeks additional partners to provide $70 million in financial or in-kind support over the next three years to reverse the decline of Africa’s elephants.
African elephants are being lost at an unprecedented rate, and the demand for ivory shows no decline. Tens of thousands of elephants are being killed illegally each year across Africa with some 35,000 lost in 2012 alone.
In addition to uniting national leaders and concerned groups and citizens, the commitment will focus attention on the national and global security implications of wildlife trafficking. As one of the world’s most lucrative criminal activities, valued at $7-10 billion annually, illegal wildlife trade ranks fifth globally in terms of value, behind the trafficking in drugs, people, oil and counterfeiting. Notorious extremist groups like the Lord’s Resistance Army, the janjaweed, and al-Shabaab poach ivory to fund terror operations.
Commitment Makers include: Wildlife Conservation Society, African Wildlife Foundation, Conservation International, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and World Wildlife Fund.
Commitment Partners are African Parks Network, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Frankfurt Zoological Society, Freeland Foundation, Howard Buffett Foundation, International Conservation Caucus Foundation, National Geographic, Save the Elephants, TRAFFIC, WildAid and WildLifeDirect.
The commitment runs through 2016 and addresses the problem on three fronts: stop the killing; stop the trafficking; and stop the demand:
Stop the Killing: The Commitment will scale up “on the ground” anti-poaching enforcement in African range states to reduce the amount of illegally killed elephants to below 50 percent.
NGO partners will support government efforts to scale up law enforcement in and around 50 key protected areas in Africa that together harbor approximately 285,000 elephants, or some two-thirds of the entire African population. NGO partners pledge to support the anti-poaching efforts of over 5,000 park guards at these sites. Partners project that this investment will reduce the average percentage of illegally killed elephants (PIKE) across these sites from 66 percent to 48 percent, with elephant population decline halted in about half of the 50 sites (PIKE less than 50 percent). Thus this effort will take the commitment halfway to its ultimate goal, reversing the decline in Africa’s elephants.
Stop the Trafficking: Partner NGOs will support governments in identifying and implementing priority actions to combat trafficking in ivory. A complimentary range of urgent actions will be used to strengthen enforcement capacity at ports and markets; increase intelligence-led crackdowns on illicit networks; secure ivory stockpiles, and reform laws and penalties can be tailored to rapidly reduce trafficking.
This commitment includes an African government led call for other countries to adopt trade moratoria on all commercial ivory imports, exports and domestic sales of ivory products until African elephant populations are no longer threatened by poaching. Government partners will initiate and support an African range state-led call to other range, transit and consumer countries to declare or restate domestic moratoria on all ivory and ivory product sales and purchases.
The partners commit to helping governments to reduce the number of large scale ivory shipments by 50 percent from 2011 baseline levels (the worst year on record for these ivory seizures) and extrapolating for changes in enforcement effort. In addition, the partners will work with governments to improve the potential detection and prosecution of illegal ivory trade by increasing the number of law enforcement officers and judiciary trained in Africa and Asia by 50 percent compared to 2011 levels by 2016.
Stop the Demand: The Commitment will target key consumer markets to increase awareness about poaching and illegal ivory trade, including generating 10 million actions taken via social media platforms to reduce ivory consumption and highlight the impact of ivory sales on the African elephant.
NGOs will use increased awareness to drive behavioral changes that will reduce consumption as well as result in “grassroots” political pressure on the governments of key consumer countries. Partners will work together to reduce the demand for ivory among potential consumers by both increasing awareness of the issues and providing mechanisms for civil society to take action. Partners pledge to take action, both individually and collectively, to reduce the stated intention to purchase ivory by at least 25 percent in key markets by the end of 2016 as measured by market research conducted at regular intervals throughout the duration of the commitment. This will be achieved by producing awareness content/materials and improving penalties and prosecutions that will spur behavior change and/or online action in key consumer countries. To measure success, standardized, replicable, scalable public opinion polls and surveys will be conducted within priority consumer countries.
Wildlife Conservation Society President and CEO Cristián Samper said: “On behalf of all the NGO partners involved in this initiative, I’m proud to announce that the Wildlife Conservation Society and their partners commit to providing $80 million over the next year to protect elephantpopulations by stopping the killing of elephants, stopping the trafficking in ivory, and stopping the demand for ivory across the world. We thank the Clinton Global Initiative, Sec. Clinton and Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton for helping to convene all the partners and for their long-time dedication to end this crisis. I know, together, we can move beyond extinction stats to the solutions to save elephants.”
African Wildlife Foundation CEO Patrick Bergin said: “We cannot hope to reverse the dramatic decline in elephant populations in Africa without addressing all three parts of the problem: the poaching of elephants on the ground in Africa, the global trafficking of ivory, and the insatiable demand by consumers for ivory products. This joint Commitment to Action demonstrates how much the resolution of this crisis relies on the coordination of efforts by multiple parties, from conservation organizations to governments around the world. African Wildlife Foundation thanks the Clinton Global Initiative for providing all of us with an opportunity to elevate the visibility of this crisis, and we personally thank Sec. Clinton and Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton for shining a spotlight on Africa’s elephants.”
Conservation International’s Co-founder, Chairman and CEO, Peter Seligmann, said: “We applaud the Clinton Global Initiative for bringing this issue to the world stage, and greatly appreciate the deep and sustained personal involvement of Secretary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, as well as that of our NGO, Foundation and government partners. Wildlife trafficking is directly connected to the global economy and security. It weakens ecosystems, fuels terrorist organizations, and threatens livelihoods. Conservation International is proud to be a part of this Commitment to Action, as it is in all of our enlightened self-interests to put an end to this deadly trade.”
Azzedine Downes, IFAW President and CEO, said: “The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) committed to this partnership from the outset because it represents the kind of large-scale and strategic collaboration it will take to save African elephants. Animal welfare and conservation organizations, range states and consumer countries, law enforcement and communities that live around the elephants—we all need to work together on a common plan if there is to be any hope of success.”
Carter Roberts, President & CEO of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said: “We know how to solve this crisis. What’s been missing is a united front from governments, NGOs and the private sector to scale up resources to stop the killing and crush the demand. Look at what has been done with conflict diamonds and fur from endangered species. The more people are aware of the consequences of what they buy, it changes what they do. We need to do the same with elephant ivory and rhino horn and tiger bone. What person would buy these things if they knew they slaughtered the most magnificent animals in the world? Because when people buy parts of these animals, they are contributing to the catastrophic killing taking place right now.”
Increasing consumer demand for ivory, particularly in Asia, is causing the price of ivory to skyrocket and is driving elephant poaching. Today’s ivory traffickers are primarily well-organized syndicates that operate as transnational criminal networks and often participate in other illegal activities, including trafficking in narcotics and weapons, and with links to terrorist networks. The poachers not only threaten the lives ofelephants, but at least 1,000 park rangers have been killed in the line of duty over the past ten years, as they try to protect elephants and other wildlife.
David Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.
He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.
Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship.