The first official session of the Steering Committee of a multi-donor technical trust fund for the implementation of an African Elephant Action Plan was held in Kruger National Park, South Africa, from 12 to 14 December to allocate available financial resources to the first set of eligible projects.
The African Elephant Action Plan and the African Elephant Fund were created under the auspices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) with the clear understanding that they should be developed by and for the 38 countries where African elephants occur. The Fund was launched last August at the 61st meeting of the CITES Standing Committee and has collected in these first months some 250,000 USD. Contributions were received from Germany, France and the Netherlands. Additional contributions from the United Kingdom and South Africa should be received soon.
John Scanlon, Secretary-General of the CITES Secretariat, stated: “This new and innovative initiative to conserve elephants in Africa has enormous potential. I am particularly pleased to see that African elephant range States, together with donor States, have now agreed on very practical ways to move ahead and make this Fund work”. “The Fund is now up and running and we call upon all donors – governments, the Global Environment Facility, the World Bank, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, private business or individuals – to help conserve the elephants of Africa by contributing to the African Elephant Fund.”
During the three-day meeting, the participating members of the Committee – Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Sudan representing the range States, and Germany and the Netherlands on behalf of the donor countries – allocated USD 150,000 to six elephant conservation projects, regionally balanced over the continent’s four subregions.. The selected activities ranged from investigating regional illegal ivory markets to mitigating local human-elephant conflicts, providing equipment to rangers and strengthening the management of key protected areas.
South Africa, as Chair of the African Elephant Steering Committee, stated: “The positive outcomes of the 1st African Elephant Fund Steering Committee meeting is an indication of the commitment of African elephant range States to collaborate to ensure the conservation of the African elephant across the continent.” “The project proposals considered by the committee reflected key challenges that range States experience in managing their elephant populations, and it is clear that the implementation of the African Elephant Action Plan will assist us all to address these challenges in a coordinated, constructive manner.”
The African Elephant Action Plan aims to secure and restore, where possible, sustainable elephant populations throughout their present and potential range in Africa, recognising their potential to provide ecological, socio, cultural and economic benefits. It also aims to ensure a secure future for African elephants and their habitats, to realise their full potential as a component of land use for the benefit of the human kind. The main strategic objectives of the Action Plan are to:
- Reduce illegal killing of elephants and illegal trade in elephant products;
- Maintain elephant habitats and restore connectivity;
- Reduce human-elephant conflicts (HEC);
- Increase awareness on elephant conservation and management of key stakeholders that include policy makers and local communities among other interest groups;
- Strengthen range States’ knowledge on African elephant management;
- Strengthen cooperation and understanding among African elephant range States;
- Improve local communities’ cooperation and collaboration in conserving African elephants; and
- Ensure the African Elephant Fund Action Plan is effectively implemented.
All sub-Saharan regions of the African continent where elephants occur are affected by poaching and illegal ivory trade. Illegal ivory seized overseas – mainly in Asia – has been found to originate from countries from East, West, Central and Southern Africa. Other than ivory trade and illegal killing, African elephants also phase threats from local over abundance, habitat loss and fragmentation and human-elephant conflict. Therefore, a national, regional and international approach to manage and conserve elephants is essential.
The Fund was created in response to a decision of the Conference of the Parties to CITES, and is hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Its function is to support the implementation of an ambitious, overarching African Elephant Action Plan that was adopted in 2010 by all 38 African elephant range States.
The meeting was made possible through financial support from Germany, and financial and logistical support from South Africa.