Azzedine Downes, IFAW President and Chief Executive Officer (far left), sits on a discussion panel during the 2013 Clinton Global Inituative annual meeting to discuss the three year commitment to help stop the poaching of African elephants for their ivory. c. Julie Larsen MaherThis Tuesday, I will take the stage alongside leaders of other major animal welfare and conservation non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), where we will report progress made toward protecting African elephants from epidemic levels of poaching.

Last September, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) was one of the founding commitment makers for the Save Africa’s Elephants initiative, an unprecedented coalition of NGOs and heads of state formally agreeing to coordinate on elephant protection.

Since that time, dozens of other organizations have joined us, creating an extensive Elephant Action Network to save elephants.

By formalizing a CGI commitment in three areas of work, we will be regularly, publicly reporting measurable impacts for these projects. They include:

Protecting Elephants in Amboseli, Kenya

IFAW’s project in Kenya’s Amboseli ecosystem integrates elephant protection and welfare, community partnerships and research to achieve ecosystem integrity and sustainability through securing critical corridors and dispersal areas. By protecting the elephants, we will be protecting all the species that share this important habitat.

The critical corridors and dispersal areas in the communities surrounding the park need to be protected to ensure the safety and welfare of the Amboseli elephants. Despite being one of the smaller parks in Kenya, Amboseli is Kenya’s second most visited, and an important source of tourism revenue. Its elephants rely on the ability to migrate outside the park boundaries for their survival; in fact, the park itself provides only ten percent of the needed ecosystem for these elephants.

Because of the regular cycle of drought, elephants are forced to range outside the park to find critical water sources and food. Over the years development outside the park has grown unchecked, and as a result, Amboseli is now completely surrounded by six Maasai community group ranches. In 2009, a census recorded over 1400 elephants living in the Amboseli ecosystem. If these corridors and dispersal areas are lost, scientists estimate the park will only be able to sustain 300 elephants. The number could go as low as 50 elephants.

IFAW is leading the establishment of community conservancies by leasing selected critical corridors and dispersal areas. We are also engaging the local Maasai community in conservation activities – including hiring and training Maasai as scouts to provide protection for elephants against the new onslaught of poachers and help mitigate human-elephant conflicts. Over the next two years, IFAW will work to increase group ranch game scouts from the current number of 20 to 60.

Ending Ivory Trade in China

The demand for elephant ivory in China is one of the leading causes of the unprecedented poaching crisis for African elephants. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) takes both top-down and bottom-up approaches to address both supply and demand for elephant ivory in China. Surveys indicate that the most compelling reason for Chinese to stop buying ivory is if buying ivory were made illegal. This reason would be made more compelling if backed by a strong recommendation from a government leader.

To influence government policy, IFAW endeavors to build a pro-elephant conservation constituency in China by engaging a wide range of government ministries and key opinion leaders (KOLs). Through these wildlife champions mobilizing society for policy change, combined with the social pressure created through the public outreach, the campaign intends to create political will at the highest government levels to condemn ivory trade.

IFAW will expand our already strong collaboration with corporations, the media and Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) from various sectors of society to influence social behavior and policy change with the goal of making ivory consumption socially unacceptable. We will test progress made toward this objective by polling Chinese consumers and noting when Key Opinion Leaders take positive action to make ivory consumption socially unacceptable, and Government policy shifts from pro-ivory trade to pro-elephant protection.

Horn of Africa Wildlife Enforcement Network

The threat of wildlife crime is especially acute in the Horn of Africa (HoA). Due to the HoA’s strategic location, it has been identified as both a source and transit route between Africa, the Middle East, and Asia for the illegal trade in ivory, rhino horn, live animals, shark fins, and other wildlife products.

IFAW, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), and Freeland Foundation (FF) have jointly developed a comprehensive five-year program to significantly reduce wildlife crime in the region. This builds on the stated desire of the HoA countries themselves, who have agreed to form their own Horn of Africa Wildlife Enforcement Network (HAWEN). HAWEN members currently consist of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda. The proposed support program, titled “Africa’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking” (ARREST), exists specifically to assist wildlife enforcement networks.

The program proposes to support the HAWEN in its fledgling phase with key staff support and a HAWEN Secretariat, which will act as the regional coordinating body. They will also provide funding for HAWEN member countries’ participation in annual meetings and for national outreach efforts.

In addition, the program proposes to implement select components of the ARREST program to build the capacity of countries to combat wildlife trafficking, including national and regional needs assessments to determine challenges pertinent to each country; anti-trafficking training for law enforcement; national judiciary training; an INTERPOL-led investigation to apprehend wildlife crime perpetrators; and community awareness to build support for the law enforcement activities.

I am proud to be part of this kind of collaboration and public reporting of measureable impact that CGI was designed to foster. In the meantime, we continue our core program work to protect elephants, including among many other initiatives:

  • training community scouts in Kenya and anti-poaching rangers in Tanzania
  • constructing fences and alternative livelihood projects in Malawi
  • public education campaigns in Congo-Brazzaville and wildlife crime training for law enforcement
  • collaboration with INTERPOL on operations to combat wildlife trafficking
  • collaboration with CITES in China to combat illegal wildlife trade

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We encourage you to sign up for IFAW e-alerts using the form above to stay up to date on our progress on these and other IFAW initiatives to save animals around the world.

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Article source: IFAW

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