Poaching has risen sharply across Africa in recent years, fuelled by rising demand in Asia for ivory. File picture: Masi Losi

Cape Town - Botswana, home to more than 40 percent of the estimated 500 000-odd elephants in Africa, is to host a high-level “elephant summit” in December in an attempt to try to secure the future of this threatened giant mammal.

The summit, co-hosted with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), comes as elephant poaching for the ivory trade has surged in recent months.

According to a report by the IUCN and its partners, the number of elephants killed has doubled and the amount of ivory seized has tripled over the last decade.

Elephant poaching and the illegal ivory trade were of major concern across Africa and beyond, with serious security, economic, political and ecological ramifications, the IUCN said. It warned that criminal gangs were using sophisticated military weapons to kill elephants and were taking advantage of high-level corruption to move the ivory across borders and out of Africa.

“The proceeds from these actions are used by criminal networks to undermine democratic rule in many African states and to fund armed militias and rebel groups engaged in internal and cross-border conflicts.”

It did not name the groups or networks but, according to media reports in recent weeks, these probably include Somalia-based al-Shabaab which launched the attack on Kenya’s Westgate mall, killing at least 67 people last month.

Heads of state and representatives of African elephant range countries and transit and destination countries in the illegal ivory trade chain are invited to attend the summit scheduled for December 2 to 4 in Gaborone.

The summit will call for stronger global action to halt the illegal trade to secure viable elephant populations across Africa.

Botswana’s minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, TS Khama, said African nations needed to work together .

“Africa needs the world’s support to address the issues of wildlife trafficking and trade, as it is the world that is creating the demand for wildlife products.”

 

The summit will follow the recently-launched Clinton Global Initiative’s US$80 million (R800m) effort to fight illegal ivory trade. The African Development Bank, the UN Security Council and US President Barack Obama, who earlier this year launched a $10m plan to combat illegal wildlife trade and related organised crime, are also actively involved in this issue. - Cape Argus