President Kenyatta announces biggest wildlife summit in Africa's history

Kenya to host the inaugural Giants Club summit to tackle the elephant poaching crisis across the continent

President Kenyatta is to convene a summit of African Heads of State, corporate leaders, philanthropists and conservation experts in April to develop a continent-wide response to the trade in illegal-wildlife, it was announced today.

Professor Judi Wakhungu, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Authorities, said the two-day event, which is being staged in partnership with the Kenya-based wildlife charity Space for Giants, will occur on 29th and 30th April in Laikipia.

It will address the elephant poaching crisis in Africa and work towards a lasting solution for the conservation of the continent’s wildlife, the Cabinet Secretary said.

To demonstrate its zero tolerance to the illegal ivory trade, the Kenyan government will follow the summit by burning 120 tonnes of ivory at 3pm on 30th April in Nairobi national park, the largest stockpile to be burned by any country in one go.

Eight African heads of state have been invited to the summit to discuss the multi-national problem and they will be joined by the leadership of many of Africa’s largest corporations, including Olam and De Beers, as well as conservation experts. Corporate titans like Richard Branson are also involved. The event is being supported by Kenya Airways and will feature musician Eric Wainaina performing.

On the afternoon of the 30th they will attend the burn to demonstrate their unity in facing the illegal poaching threat and as a fitting end to the summit’s two day agenda.

Announcing the event in a statement, President Kenyatta said that he and his fellow African leaders “will use this opportunity to underline the global intent to put an end, once again, to the butchering of elephants and rhinos by selfish criminal gangs.” He continued: “I am delighted to host the inaugural Giant’s Club Summit in Kenya. Together we will all play our part in preserving the planet’s greatest animals.”

Prof Wakhungu said: “As a country, we are demonstrating our longstanding commitment to put ivory beyond economic use.”

The Giants Club was founded by President Kenyatta with the presidents of Botswana, Gabon, Kenya and Uganda, with support from Space for Giants and its patron, Evgeny Lebedev, the owner of The Independent and London Evening Standard newspapers.

The body was formed to combat the poaching crisis by bringing together visionary leaders who can work together to provide the political will, financial resources and technical capacity required to protect Africa’s remaining elephant populations.

In the last three years 100,000 elephants have been killed across Africa to supply ivory to illegal markets. Proceeds from this illegal trade are being used to support criminal activity, armed conflict and terrorism. Frontline conservationists have been injured and killed in their hundreds. 

Dr Max Graham, founder of Space for Giants, said: “I strongly believes that by bringing together many of the world’s most powerful individuals to focus not just on the immediate poaching crisis, but also on the longer term challenge of ensuring Africa’s conservation estate is sustained, forever, President Kenyatta and the Giants Club will achieve something extraordinary and unprecedented.”

The summit is to be staged at Mount Kenya Safari Club. Delegates will also be invited to visit local conservation projects to see practical examples of Kenya’s leadership in the area of wildlife protection. Attendance is by invitation only. Together those present will:

  • Announce binding commitments by Giants Club members;
  • Deliver specific wildlife frontline protection projects financed by the corporates and philanthropists;
  • Support Giants Club member states to identify and resource the protection of Africa’s most significant wildlife refuges.

The event is being supported by a number of other charities, including the anti-illegal wildlife charity organisation WildAid.

Evgeny Lebedev, Space for Giants’ patron, said: “I have loved conservation and Africa throughout my life, but only in recent years have I seen how urgent is the work needed when combining the two. Many of the continent's most iconic species face extinction. That is why I am delighted that President Kenyatta is hosting the inaugural summit of the Giants Club.

“My hope is that, together with corporate donors and other leaders across the continent, we can make an immediate impact, and so improve the prospects for some of the most beautiful landscapes, and animals, on Earth. Time is short - but this summit is exactly the right way to address this critical situation, and I am hopeful for its outcome.”

The burn of the country’s ivory stockpile, much of it seized from illegal poaching, follows the personal directive of President Kenyatta on 3 March 2015.  The burn marks Kenya's commitment to the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI), which it signed to on its joining of the Giants Club. The EPI requires that domestic ivory markets be stopped and that ivory stocks are put beyond economic use.

The burn, which is eight times the size of any ivory stockpile destroyed so far, is being organised by the Kenya Wildlife Service, supported by the EPI’s secretariat Stop Ivory.

The EPI is an Africa-led initiative to save the elephant, which has put in place a framework including stock pile inventory and National Elephant Action Plans (NEAPs). The Giants Club is an initiative led by a group of leading EPI members, in partnership with Space for Giants, to raise funds, secure sustainable investment and provide technical capacity for activities included in NEAPs, as well as to collaborate on and lobby for the conservation of elephants and the landscapes they depend on.

Alex Rhodes, the CEO of Stop Ivory, said: “In two short years, and in the face of a bloody crisis, the world has come together and agreed to end all trade in ivory.  Kenya is leading the way in making sure that that promise is delivered whilst at the same time building a sustainable framework for elephants and the communities they live alongside. 

“Stop Ivory is delighted to be working with the Giants Club and other partners from across the NGO and private sectors, to support the Government of Kenya through the Elephant Protection Initiative.  The future of the elephant will be determined this year. Burning the ivory leaves no question that it can leak into criminal hands. There can be no stronger statement that true value is in the elephant.”

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