Giants Club: There is hope that the tide can turn – and this initiative will help those on the frontline

The road to a future with a stable and thriving elephant population is clear - support the EPI and the Giants Club and together we can all play our part in bringing that closer

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In the first 10 years of my life, half of Africa’s elephants were killed to supply the West with billiard balls, piano keys and hairbrushes. It took a huge public outcry, common cause and an international trade ban to stop that slaughter.

Today, 26 years later, we again face a battle for the elephant. But this time there are only 400,000 left; 100,000 have been killed in just three years. In places, only a handful eke out their perilous existence in the shadow of once-mighty herds.

This living icon of Africa’s great natural wealth is being sacrificed while the criminal and corruptible profit by selling its ivory to unaware aspirational consumers thousands of miles away. Elephants will only survive if they are valued over their ivory and immediate frontline protection is delivered to the forests and savannahs of Africa. 

In February 2014, five African countries – Botswana, Chad, Gabon, Tanzania and Ethiopia – came together at the London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade to launch the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI).

The EPI is an African-led political commitment to maintain the international ivory ban, to close domestic ivory markets, and to put ivory stockpiles beyond economic use. It also provides an international framework for donors, governments and NGOs to work together to deliver structured funding to implement the African Elephant Action Plan for frontline protection, law enforcement, sustainable livelihoods and demand reduction.

The Giants Club’s role in this is vital. It focuses on keeping the elephants alive, through state-of-the-art protection programmes and supporting all-important rangers. This is the front line of elephant conservation. Until ivory is no longer profitable for organised crime, guns and boots on the ground will remain essential.

Stop Ivory and the Giants Club are working closely together. Last week Kenya became the ninth country to join the EPI as it signed up to become a Giants Club member. Simultaneously an ivory inventory and DNA analysis was commissioned, conducted by Stop Ivory, the Kenya Wildlife Service and its partners, so President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive to destroy all ivory stocks can be executed.

In the last 18 months, Uganda, Malawi and Gambia have also joined the EPI; seven countries have inventoried their ivory stockpiles; 11 have destroyed them, including China and the US. Four African countries have developed National Elephant Action Plans, which are being funded by Stop Ivory and a growing number of partners including the Giants Club, Save the Elephants, Tusk Trust, WCS, African Parks and the UNDP. 

Critically, both China and the US have now committed to closing their domestic ivory markets – a commitment mirrored in the Conservative manifesto – with the US already implementing new laws. The road to a future with a stable and thriving elephant population is clear. Support the EPI and the Giants Club and together we can all play our part in bringing that closer.

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Alex Rhodes is the CEO of Stop Ivory