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African Elephant Fund August 2018

“Elephants are vital to our ecosystem. Yet the population of elephants is steadily dwindling, by almost 8 per cent every year. We must step up efforts to manage and protect our biodiversity, including the African Elephant” Erik Solheim, Head, United Nations Environment Programme.

This newsletter gives a triannual update of the African Elephant Fund. The African Elephant Fund negotiated under the auspices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) brings together African elephant range States, donor States, the United Nations Environment Programme , the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), CITES and other key wildlife conservation actors who work collaboratively to conserve and protect the African Elephant by implementing the African Elephant Action Plan.

In the second triannual of 2018, the African Elephant Fund undertook several activities working towards the implementation of the African Elephant Action Plan including; aerial census in Kenya to determine elephant population and distribution in the ecosystem, training law enforcement officers and local communities in Ghana and Gabon on wildlife conservation strategies and upgrading surveillance and intelligence systems in Uganda to ensure protecting of elephants and their habitats among other activities. The Fund also steered the first ever international award for wildlife rangers working in extreme environments to protect wildlife in Africa.

Rangers recognized for their selfless efforts in wildlife conservation

Winners at the African Rangers Award ceremony in Cape Town, South Africa on August 7, 2018. | Photo Credits: Paradise International Foundation

On 21 July 2017, Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba and co-chair of Paradise International Foundation, announced in Kigali that a 10-year award program would be set up to support 500 wildlife rangers in Africa. The African Ranger Award seeks to raise awareness in the world about the need to conserve Africa’s wildlife, emphasizing the critical role that front-line rangers play in conservation. Read more

UN Environment through the African Elephant Fund Secretariat participated as judges that nominated and evaluated one hundred and thirty-eight (138) wildlife rangers. Fifty (50) winners from seventeen (17) African countries were awarded 3,000 United States Dollars each as a token of appreciation for their exceptional passion, commitment and dedication to their duty as wildlife rangers in combating poaching, habitat loss, and the illegal trade in wildlife some at the cost of their lives. The award ceremony took place in Cape Town, South African on 7 August 2018.

Some of the winners for the 2018 ranger award includes:

  • Mr. James Mwenda, who was recognized for taking care of two world's remaining white rhinos at Ol Pejeta conservancy in Kenya as well as watching over the last male white rhino, Sudan, that died in March 2018.
  • Mr. Tshala Nswana Honore, previously a Chief Patrol of Virunga National Park who was poisoned and killed by a poacher.
  • Mr. Julius Kior Kulwa, previously a ranger of Big Life Foundation who was killed by an elephant while on the line of duty.
  • Mr. Fernando Macamero, who evicted illegal miners helping poachers in a Mozambique national park, facing a backlash including from his family, and was later blinded while on duty.
  • Mr. Nanyuki Lapalee, a Kenyan former poacher now using his bush skills for conservation, and working to reform other poachers.
  • Mr. Voster Mweene, whose team has patrolled 43,000km of a Zambian national park, increasing arrests and convictions of poachers significantly.
  • Mr. Walter Odokorwot, a Uganda community conservation warden at the Kidepo Valley Conservation Area who devised and carried out a successful human-wildlife conflict strategy in Murchison Falls National Park.

The full list and details of the 50 winners are available here.

Read more

The African elephant crisis

According to the 2016 African elephant status report, an estimated 415,000-550,000 elephants are remaining compared to 3 to 5 million that roamed the vast expanses at the beginning of the 20th century. The factors contributing to these population decline includes the following;

Demand for ivory

The high demand for ivory is the biggest driver for illegal killing of elephants and illegal trade of elephant products leading to the drastic decline in elephant population. Despite CITES ban on international trade of ivory in 1989, thousands of elephants are still being killed to meet the growing demand for ivory products. An estimated 20,000 to 25,000 elephants are killed per year out of the remaining population. Between 2011 to 2013 over 150 tonnes of ivory was seized recording the highest volume of illegal ivory seized since global records began in 1989 (UN Environment, 2014).

Expansion of human population

Loss and fragmentation of elephants’ habitat brought about by expansion of human population, human settlement, urbanization and land conversion for human activities have also contributed to the decline of elephant population. According to World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) elephants’ habitat shrank from three million square miles in 1979 to one million square miles in 2007.

The ever-increasing human population have also encroached into elephant habitats resulted into human-elephant conflict. The human population that borders elephant habitats or cross elephant migration corridors result into conflict such as damaging of farmers crops and property as well as loss of lives as farmers kill them as a form of retaliation due to the distraction caused by the elephants. While the number of elephants that die in such conflicts is much lower than the numbers poached for ivory, hundreds of elephants are killed every year as a result of human-elephant conflict.

Impact of climate change

Besides demand for ivory and human population, climate change is also emerging as a serious threat to African elephants’ survival. Climate change has contributed significantly to the decline of African elephants. Drought brought about by change in climate conditions have caused death of elephants, increased bush fires, altered elephant habitats as well as creating human-wildlife conflict as elephant prey on farmers crops for food resulting into their killings.

African Elephant Fund initiatives

The African Elephant Fund is working to curtail these threats facing African elephants by provide support to the African elephant range States in implementing projects across the African continent. These projects being implemented helps in reducing illegal killing of elephants and illegal trade of elephants products, maintain elephants habitat and restore connectivity and reduce human elephant conflict among others activities aimed at conserving and protecting African elephants and restoring their habitats. Read more

Aerial census in Amboseli and West Kilimanjaro

Some of the workshop participants during aerial census in Amboseli National Park| ©African Elephant Fund

In Kenya, the collared elephant data has confirmed extensive elephant movement patterns between Kenya and Tanzania across the international boundary. These migrations are centered around Amboseli- Magadi area in Kenya and West Kilimanjaro-Natron in Tanzania that constitute the larger ecosystem. The extensive movement have been caused by challenges in terms of land tenure, land use system, drought and impacts of climate change among others. These have impacted negatively on the elephant population due to loss and fragmentation of elephants’ habitats and human elephant conflict.

In collaboration with the International Fund for Animal Welfare , Amboseli Ecosystems Trust, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Kenya Wildlife Service, the project entitled "Amboseli-West Kilimanjaro-Magadi-Natron ecosystem aerial mammal count" was implemented to determine elephant population and trends in the ecosystem, and advise on the appropriate management actions.

The aerial census aims to strengthen range States knowledge on African elephant management by determining elephant population abundance and distribution in the ecosystem, determining elephant population trends in the ecosystem over time, identifying threats to elephant conservation in the landscape, fostering cross-border collaboration on elephant population monitoring and management as well as suggesting strategies for effective elephant management across the landscape.

Military training for Gabon’s Park Rangers

In Gabon, the pressure of elephant poaching, which remained moderate until the end of the 1990s, has been increasing for the past ten years. It is estimated that between 2004 and 2012, about 10,000 to 16,000 elephants were killed, in and around Minkebe National Park, the largest park in Gabon. This poaching is linked to the dramatic increase in ivory poaching throughout the continent. With the rise of this wildlife crime, the underlined hypothesis clearly shows that in the next few years, the elephant populations will drastically decrease and faces extinction if no mitigation measures are taken.

To combat poaching, Gabon implemented a project entitled "Military training for Gabon’s Park Rangers" that trained 60 rangers at the Mokeko military training facility on patrolling, tracking, fast aid, military tactics, self-defense, firing range as well as mission planning. Through training of Gabon Park Rangers, the project strengthened the Gabon Park Rangers capacity to combat poaching and illegal trade in ivory and thus reduced poaching of elephants as well as improved protection of Gabon forest elephants.

Biodiversity training among local communities in Ghana

Ghana conducted biodiversity training among local communities and key stakeholders on elephant contribution and benefits to the ecosystem through a project entitled "Reducing human elephant conflict through improved monitoring, stakeholder engagement and law enforcement".

This project developed awareness program based on farmers’ knowledge needs and skills to promote good agricultural practices for enhancement of ecological health of the landscape and trained wildlife division staff with the skills to improve management and law enforcement of the protected areas. The project also strengthened bilateral cooperation among elephant range States in securing cross-border populations along the Bia-Diambarakro corridor between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire.

Aerial survey of elephants in north-west of Namibia

In Namibia, through the project entitled "Aerial survey of elephants in the north-west of Namibia", Namibia conducted the first aerial census in almost 20 years to determine elephant population to understand the density and distribution of its elephant population.

The project collected baseline information on the density of elephant populations in the north-western region in Namibia, updated estimates of the number of elephants in the region and also collected data on elephant carcasses for submission to the Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants programme. The aerial census improved conservation planning for the development of elephant management strategies. Read more

Improved capacity in surveillance and intelligence gathering in Uganda

In Uganda, through the project entitled "Strengthening Law Enforcement against Elephant Poaching and Illegal Ivory Trade in Uganda" the Uganda Wildlife Authority established a canine department at Entebbe International Airport , improved capacity of staff in intelligence and investigations to fight illegal killing of elephants and ivory trade and acquired of two (2) environmental drones to combat poaching in Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls National Parks.

As a result of these activities conducted, the project increased the effectiveness of tracking and arresting elephant poachers within and outside the protected areas, trained investigations unit and patrol staff on intelligence gathering and equipped Uganda Wildlife Authority with modern technology and equipment for more effective ivory detection and surveillance activities including the management of the national ivory stockpile.

Calling on more wildlife conservation partners

The African Elephant Fund appeals to more Parties, donors, inter-governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, private sector and philanthropists to support the implementation of the African Elephant Action Plan by contributing to the Fund.

The African Elephant Fund would like to appreciate and thank the Governments of Belgium, China, France, Germany, the Netherlands, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, South Africa and the European Commission for contributing the needed financial resources towards implementation of the African Elephant Action Plan.

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Get involved

For more information on the African Elephant Fund or to collaborate with us, please contact us on email: unenvironment-africanelephantfund@un.org or visit our website at www.africanelephantfund.org

Disclaimer: The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the views, policies or official opinion of the African Elephant Range States, Donor States, UN Environment or other contributing organizations.

Created By
Dorris Chepkoech
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Created with images by SolaGratia - "elephant family elephant safari" • humster - "africa tanzania elephant" • kolibri5 - "elephant zebra africa namibia nature dry heiss" • Mark Kucharski - "limuru tea plucker, kenya" • geralt - "forest tree bach" • skeeze - "working dog military mix german shepherd belgian" • jbpic - "elephant kenya amboseli np elephant elephant elephant" and Unsplash photos. All other workshop and event photos are copyright of the African Elephant Fund.

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