African Elephants to Benefit From New $100 Million Fund

by Evironmental News Service
(GENEVA, Switzerland, August 22, 2011 )

Global conservation experts aim to raise US$100 million over the next three years to ensure the long-term survival of African elephants in the face of increased poaching and a thriving illegal trade in ivory.

Government delegates to a United Nations-backed meeting in Geneva agreed Friday to contribute to a new trust fund for elephant survival.

A multi-donor technical trust for the implementation of an African Elephant Action Plan was launched at the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES after full consultation and all formalities were concluded early in the year.

The Netherlands, Germany and France have already contributed to the new fund and other potential donors were encouraged to join them.

"We expect that donors will hear the urgent needs of Africa and support the implementation of the African Elephant Action Plan," said John Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITES, whose secretariat is administered by the UN Environment Programme.
Elephant, Tarangiri National Park, Tanzania, August 4, 0211 (Photo by Gerald Reisner)

"The target is to raise $100 million over the next three years to enhance law enforcement capacity and secure the long-term survival of African elephant populations," he said.

Elephant conservation and new financial mechanisms were among several issues on the agenda of the week-long meeting, in addition to measures to reduce current levels of poaching of rhinos, tigers and other big cats, illegal trade in mahogany and other timber species, the fate of sturgeon and the caviar trade, and the sourcing of reptile skins used in the leather industry.

The committee considered recent findings concerning African and Asian elephants, poaching levels and illegal trade in ivory.

A decision to exclude conservation groups from the debate on elephant issues, proposed by the Asian region last Wednesday morning, was overturned that afternoon after a second vote.

"We are very happy with the outcomes of the meeting overall," said Dr. Colman O Criodain, wildlife trade policy analyst with the global conservation organization WWF.

"Attempts by some countries to evade scrutiny of their role in illegal trade only ensured that these countries are now more under the spotlight than before."

WWF was pleased that the Committee responded to increasing illegal ivory trade by requiring Thailand to report in writing on curbing its uncontrolled domestic ivory trade, which is largely sourced from Central African elephants.

Thailand, which is to host the next CITES Conference of the Parties in 2013, will risk facing sanctions if it fails to report satisfactorily by then, Criodain said.
Its horns are in demand, but this rhino will not be a victim of poaching as it lives at Knowsley Safari Park, a tourist attraction near Liverpool, UK. (Photo by Dave Tinker)

The Committee also recognized rhinoceros poaching and illegal trade in their horns as a major challenge that requires innovative approaches, with one delegation describing the situation "as almost out of control."

All populations of rhinoceroses are suffering from poaching, particularly those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Mozambique, Nepal, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The illegal trade in rhinoceros horns appears to be the main motive.

An expert group will scrutinize the progress made by rhino range states and importing countries on this issue.

According to a report submitted by the South African government, a total of 174 rhino have been illegally killed in that country during the first six months of 2011.

Poaching levels in South Africa have risen in recent years: 13 rhinos poached in 2007, 83 in 2008, 122 in 2009 and 330 in 2010.

A total of 122 suspected rhino poachers have been arrested in South Africa since January 2011, 60 of them in the Kruger National Park, which is the protected area that has suffered the biggest losses.

The CITES Standing Committee also reviewed efforts by Peru to establish reliable timber verification systems, and new rules for introducing marine species from international waters, among other topics.

Some 175 countries have joined CITES, an international agreement that entered into force in July 1975 and aims to ensure that global trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

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