Gabon launches elephant fences in pioneering conservation move

President Ali Bongo of Gabon launches plan to reduce human-elephant conflict as part of the Pan-African Giants Club

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The Independent Online

The President of Gabon, one of the founding members of the Giants Club conservation initiative, today demonstrated his commitment to his people and conservation by officially launching the first elephant fence in Gabon.  

Human elephant conflict is a daily reality across Gabon where people and elephants live side-by-side in many locations, resulting in economic losses to farmers and retaliatory killings towards elephants. 

Elephants are capable of destroying entire livelihoods in a single night. The construction of the electric fence will protect several hundred farmers and significantly reduce damages caused by elephants in the region, thereby boosting local support for their protection.

Announcing the start of work on building the project, President Bongo said: “Here in Gabon we are lucky to live amid some of the most beautiful forests on the planet and to share our country with one of the world's most special creatures: the forest elephant. Yet in Gabon we also have some of the hardest working farmers who help produce the food for our tables.

“This fence is an important step in protecting their livelihoods, while also helping protect our elephants from leaving their natural habitats. I am delighted work has now begun on this fence and I would like to thank the Giants Club, and its implementation charity Space for Giants, for the assistance they are providing our wildlife service in delivering this project for the Gabonese people.”

The launch of the 50km fence project, which the Giants Club has helped finance to USD 200,000, comes just three months after the inaugural Giants Club Summit hosted in Nanyuki, Kenya, attended by African presidents, philanthropists and conservation experts from around the globe. The goal of the Giants Club is to effectively protect some 200,000 elephants – 50 per cent of the continental total – by 2020.

Supporting the launch of the project are Professor Lee White, Director of the Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux, and Dr Max Graham, the CEO of Space for Giants, the Giants Club's implementation charity.

Prof White said: “Today the President, with support from the ANPN and Space for Giants, has made a clear statement of intent to secure our people’s livelihoods and preserve our natural heritage for future generations. We look forward to scaling up and delivering a comprehensive human elephant conflict mitigation strategy in the months to come.”

Dr Graham said: “Gabon is home to the vast majority of forest elephants remaining on this great continent and it is here where the future of the species will be decided. The implementation of this human elephant conflict mitigation strategy is critical to ensure that people and elephants can live together for generations to come. We are delighted by this show of commitment by one of the founding members of the Giants Club.”

Short electric fences (3 foot tall), with electrified protruding arms (outriggers) conducting charges in excess of 7000 volts have proven the most effective at keeping elephants at bay in Giants Club-supported projects in Kenya and the fences in Gabon will mirror this sophisticated elephant-proof design. This initial pilot fence will take approximately four months to construct and will use over 10,000 poles and 400km of electrified wire.

Along with the construction of elephant-proof fences, President Bongo announced at the Giants Club Summit in April that the ANPN would double its staff capacity from 750 to 1,500 greatly increasing their impact on the ground. Frontline protection and judicial interventions initiatives to boost the ranger network on the ground and support the criminal justice pathway in courts will also be delivered in the coming months.  

The Giants Club is supported by ESI Media, the UK-based media group that owns the London Evening Standard newspaper and The Independent digital sites. ESI Media's owner, Evgeny Lebedev, is patron of the Club and also of Space for Giants.

With Gabon, the Club's other member states are Kenya, Botswana and Uganda. Together these countries are home to almost half remaining savannah elephants and some 70 per cent of the forest elephant.

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