Photo Credit: Helen Gichohi
AWF President Challenges International Community to Step Up Stronger Enforcement as Follow-up to Public Event
NAIROBI, Kenya, July 21, 2011--Twenty-two years after the Kenyan government conducted the world's first public ivory burning, representatives from member countries of the Lusaka Agreement, a transnational accord that helps protect endangered African wildlife, gathered yesterday to witness the burning of an estimated $16 million worth of contraband ivory.
President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya set fire to the Lusaka Agreement's ivory in a televised display that coincided with the first African Elephant Law Enforcement Day. AWF supports the anti-poaching message behind the action, but stresses that this gesture must be met with a larger commitment by the international community to put a stop to elephant poaching.
"While the African Wildlife Foundation applauds this action, we strongly advise all nations, not just those with elephant populations, to step up vigilance in their anti-poaching efforts," said AWF President Helen Gichohi, who attended the burning. "While this event communicates a tough stance against poaching by Lusaka Party members, any meaning here will only be symbolic unless it is matched by increased and committed enforcement efforts by national governments."
The ivory burned in yesterday's event--between four and seven tons, by some estimates--was seized in Singapore in 2002 by the Lusaka Agreement Task Force before being taken to Kenya in 2004 for storage. The ivory was subsequently verified to be Malawian and Tanzanian in origin.
AWF has been at the forefront of the fight to stop elephant poaching for more than two decades. In 1989, AWF initiated a television and print campaign, "Only Elephants Should Wear Ivory." As part of the campaign, AWF staff traveled all over Africa to advocate the ban of ivory sales. Its efforts helped result in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species outlawing the commercial trading of ivory that same year. Elephant poaching diminished significantly following the ban, but rising demand for ivory products in East Asian markets has led to a renewed increase in elephants killed for their ivory. Though yesterday's demonstration communicated a positive anti-poaching message to the international community, AWF hopes that such a message will initiate an increase in commitment by national governments to eradicate elephant poaching once and for all.
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