African leaders tell EU to close down Ivory markets, cites funding from EU as mockery

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A Kenyan soldier stands guard near 105 tons of ivory in Nairobi National Park during a burning exercise.

NAIROBI – African leaders and wildlife conservationists have petitioned the European Union to close down its ivory trade market in a move to curb the poaching activities.

Speaking during a Giants Club summit held in Kasane, Botwsana, international conservationists, leaders and representatives from Kenya, Uganda, Botswana and Gabon lauded the move by the EU to support conservation of elephants in Africa through funding. The four countries are home to more than half Africa’s elephants.

During the three-day Giant’s Club summit, European Union pledged $ 2million out of the $6 million raised towards the protection of elephants and habitats in Africa.

“The European Union should consider closing down the ivory markets if they really have the motive to support conservation in Africa. African elephants are being poached daily in order to meet the rising demand, a situation that is driving these species to extinction,” Botswana President Ian Khama said.

He added that operating legal ivory market undermines Africa’s efforts in saving the elephants while fueling poaching activities.

“You cannot support conservation and on the other hand open ivory markets, it beats logic,” Botswana president Ian Khama said.

EU is the world’s biggest exporter of legal ivory and presides over significant trade. It exported 1,258 tusks in 2014 and 2015 alone, more than the previous eight years combined.

It has since advised governments only to export worked ivory, rather than raw tusks, but this legal trade is thought to increase demand for and act as a cover for the illicit ivory trade, which is fuelling Africa’s elephant poaching crisis.

According to the Space for Giants CEO Max Graham, the rate of elephant decline is soaring with the species slowly disappearing from existence.

“The rate of extinction of different species is rising by day yet we have more capacity to stop it. Stopping poaching requires commitment, technology and political will,” Mr Graham said adding that countries should come together to safe the disappearing species.

Mr Graham said there is need for the EU to consider the ban citing that the ivory trade menace is funds criminal networks.

“We have long argued that all ivory markets should be closed because any vagueness in can you buy it or can’t you buy it drives confusion, and criminal networks make billions of euros a year exploiting that confusion. It’s simple: the EU must follow the US and especially China, and say no ivory is for sale, he adds.

While China, Hong Kong and other key players have already implemented the ivory bans, the EU is yet to follow.

Kenya, also joined 32 other African countries in signing the global petition Avaaz, which seeks to compel the EU to close down its ivory markets.

“Kenya has joined other countries in signing the petition that seeks to compel the European Union to stop the ivory trade in a move to safe African elephants,” Cabinet Secretary for Environment and natural resources Mr Keriako Tobiko said during the summit.

The petition, calls on EU heads of government to close Europe’s domestic trade in ivory, end all ivory exports, and support efforts to ban the global ivory trade.

“Our elephants are under threat from poaching and we’re not satisfied that the equation has been concluded on anti-poaching,” said Tshekedi Khama, Botswana’s Minister for Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism

However, Ambassador Alexander Baum who represented the EU delegation at Kasane said there was no evidence that the EU markets has fuelled poaching in Africa, however the EU will continue to funding and supporting conservation efforts globally.

“There is still no proof that the ivory markets has fuelled poaching crisis in Africa, the EU will however continue to fund and support Africa n conserving their elephants,” Ambassador Baum said.