By Mtokozisi Dube
Botswana President Ian Khama has left for London Wednesday to attend the high-level anti-poaching summit.
He joins heads of state from about 50 governments drawn from Africa, Asia, Europe and the US at the event aimed at halting surging demand for elephant and rhino products.
According to Botswana’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, the summit aims to tackle the more than $19 billion a year illegal trade in endangered animals such as elephants and rhinos by delivering an unprecedented political commitment along with an action plan and the mobilisation of resources.
“The meeting will highlight the strong links between wildlife poaching, international criminal syndicates and terrorism as well as threats to national security,” a press statement from the ministry read in part.
The level of wildlife crime has soared in recent years, driven by demand from the rapidly expanding middle classes in Asia who value tiger, elephant and rhino products as status symbols.
Conservationists are hopeful the initiative will usher in a resolution by the international community to halt the illegal trade and stem the rampant poaching of elephant and rhino across Africa.
Experts believe that between 25,000 to30,000 elephants are being slaughtered each year for their ivory and to satisfy increasing demand in the Far East.
Africa’s elephant population is estimated to have diminished to as low as 400,000.
In 2013, South Africa alone lost over 1,000 rhino to poachers and is currently losing on average 3 rhinos a day.
Two of Africa’s leading conservation companies Great Plains Conservation and &Beyond recently embarked on an ambitious effort to relocate 100 rhinos from South Africa to Botswana in an effort to find a safe haven for the endangered species.
The move was triggered by the rate of rhino poaching, which is said to be at an all- time high in South Africa.