By Innocent Tshukudu
A three-day African Elephant Summit convened by Botswana Government and the International Union for Conservation (IUCN) has shed some light into the dark realities of illicit ivory trade.
Delegates from different states where illegal ivory trade flourishes, converged at the Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC) this week in a solution finding mission to halt the illicit trade and secure elephant populations across Africa.
It would have been a normal event with boring speeches, but to symbolise the relevance and concerns of the summit, delegates took five minutes of the opening ceremony to watch part of ‘Wildlife Warriors’, a wildlife documentary that highlights Botswana’s anti-poaching efforts.
The documentary that features President Lieutenant General Ian Khama during his days as Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Commander features depressing scenes of poaching activity as well as a hopeful story of restoration brought about by the military intervention.
After the video clip, Khama was welcomed to the podium by a thunderous applause by the capacity-filled hall that included delegates from South Africa, Gabon, Kenya, Niger and Zambia and ivory transit states Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia, and ivory destination states, including China and Thailand.
Khama told the delegation that he growing trade in illegal ivory was a national issue, not sectoral , and that for many of the African countries, it required leadership, commitment and direction at the highest political level to ensure that the necessary resources were made for a highly approach to law enforcement.
Khama said Botswana was proud that it was home to a healthy elephant population.
“Our window of opportunity to tackle the growing illegal ivory trade is closing and if we do not stem the tide, future generations will condemn our unwillingness to act,” he told the summit.
“Now is the time for Africa and Asia to join forces to protect this universally valued and much needed species,” he added.
One of the 14 measures the delegates committed to involves classifying wildlife trafficking as a “serious crime.”
According to the IUCN, this will unlock international law enforcement cooperation provided under the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, including mutual legal assistance, asset seizure and forfeiture, extradition and other tools to hold criminals accountable for wildlife crime. More....