Botswana will next week (Thursday 15 – 17 March) host the Giants Club Summit aimed at protecting Africa’s elephant species. The major international summit will take place in Kasane, right in the heart of the habitat that holds the world’s largest remaining population of African elephants from 15 -17 March 2018, hosted by the Tlhokomela Botswana Endangered Wildlife Trust and Space for Giants.
“Fundamental threats to the world’s largest land mammal remain and poaching is still a huge problem. Pressures on elephant habitats are surging as human populations grow and more land is needed for farming and infrastructure development. Greater efforts to make sure that elephants and other wildlife are valued by the communities that host them are critical to the species’ survival.”
The Giants Club is a high-level global forum uniting visionary African political leaders with conservation science, philanthropic finance, and individuals with worldwide influence, who have together pledged to safeguard at least half of Africa’s remaining elephants by 2020.
Over three days, three heads of states including Botswana’s President Ian Khama, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya as well as senior representatives from Gabon, China, European Union and Senior representatives of leading African and global conservation NGOs will for three days engage to accelerate progress against elephant poaching and protect key wildlife habitat.
This year’s summit follows the inaugural Giants Club Summit held in Kenya in 2016. The Giants Club is an initiative of Space for Giants whose founding members are the presidents of Gabon, Kenya, and Uganda, and Botswana’s Tlhokomela Trust with President Khama as its it patron. The Giants Club unites political will, financial and technical muscle, and global celebrity and influence, to achieve its goal of protecting half of Africa’s elephants and their landscapes by 2020.
The world has acted swiftly to slow the out-of-control slaughter of Africa’s elephants for their ivory by international criminals and poaching gangs. In East Africa, poaching rates are back to pre-crisis levels. China has banned its ivory trade, significantly cutting demand. But elephants are not safe yet: far from it. In many parts of Africa, the illegal killing of elephants continues to kill them faster than natural reproduction can keep up, leading to slowly but inexorably shrinking populations.
There are perhaps 150,000 fewer elephants roaming Africa today than there were just a decade ago. In total now only 415,000 may remain – half of them in the four countries of the Giants Club: Botswana, Gabon, Kenya, and Uganda. Added to the acute danger of poaching, longer-term threats are growing for this iconic mammal that is also a critical link in the chain of so many ecosystems.
As human populations increase, the competition over how Africa uses its land soars. Finding the innovations to bring maximum benefits to local people of leaving land wild for elephants will be perhaps our longest-lasting achievement. In March 2018, the Giants Club Summit will be held in the African country that has become a byword for sustained, smart, and successful conservation: Botswana.
President Ian Khama, whose time in office has been a beacon for how leaders can act to safeguard wildlife within their countries’ borders, will host the Summit with the Tlhokomela Trust, Botswana’s endangered species trust. It will be one of President Khama’s final major activities before he retires in April after a decade in office. The Botswana event will build on the success of the inaugural Giants Club Summit hosted by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya in 2016. That united for the first time enlightened African political leaders with global business, philanthropy, and finance in defence of the continent’s remaining wild elephants.
The summit reached an audience of close to one billion people globally, put in place strategic projects to stop the illegal wildlife trade, and funded a long list of new conservation interventions. African leaders back 1 million signature petition demanding EU ends its ivory trade African leaders and delegates at the Summit will be among the final names on an Avaaz petition demanding the EU closes its ivory trade, which already has more than 1 million signatures. From Kasane, the petition will go straight to Brussels.
Celebrate anti-poaching progress but guard against complacency. Recent CITES figures showed a fifth annual decline in elephant poaching, and in East Africa rates are at levels last seen before the current crisis. But central African forest elephant populations continue to be hard hit, and there are worries for the largest remaining herds in the borderlands of Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Innovative funding and Botswana ‘model’ help conservationists secure wildlife space. Botswana combines the largest national herd of elephants in Africa with a very low poaching rate and peaceful coexistence between people and wildlife: how? Can that be replicated in countries struggling to finance competing priorities: forging new alliances between governments and conservation-compatible businesses can help plug the gap.