The role of Africa in halting supply of illegal ivory

Nations must co-operate and educate their citizens, says the Foreign Minister of Uganda

Share

A growing demand for ivory from Asia - despite its sale being illegal in many Asian countries - is often cited as the root cause of the escalation in poaching of elephants and rhinos.

How the international community works to halt this demand will be discussed in London this week at a global conference hosted by the British Government. At last, the illegal wildlife trade is being treated with the urgency it deserves.

In Uganda - a country that is home to thousands of the world’s remaining wild elephants, as well as other highly endangered species such as the mountain gorilla - we have a crucial role to play in tackling the ivory trade and in the wider discussions taking place.

Yet while emphasis is increasingly placed on halting demand from Asia, too little focus is being placed on the nations of Africa and our responsibility to halt supply. In recent years this has not been successful – and serious change is needed in laws, policing, and education. We also need to work to provide alternatives to the livelihoods that poaching – however criminal - provides.

In Uganda we have a good story to tell: the Ugandan Wildlife Authority’s park rangers, in cooperation with the army, police and other national agencies, have used sophisticated surveillance techniques and improved security to halve the number of elephant deaths by poaching from 25 in 2011 to 11 in 2013.

The Parliament of Uganda is planning this year to build on this advance by amending the Uganda Wildlife Act to include far tougher penalties for those caught poaching or facilitating supply.

However, Uganda should not and cannot act alone in Africa. Indeed, there are three initiatives we need to take to tackle poaching that can only be addressed by African inter-governmental co-operation: policing habitats that cross borders, tackling terrorism and rebel groups that fund their activities from the ivory trade, and educating our populations on the importance of protecting our wildlife.

We are making some headway on cross-border co-operation. The last remaining habitat of the mountain gorilla crosses the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Their numbers have been increasing in recent years because of cooperation between our three countries in policing the gorilla’s forest home. Now more coordination is needed between countries that contain the majority of the elephant and rhino populations. We must more efficiently share intelligence on the movements and activities of poachers, jointly monitor animals that roam freely across borders, and have equally tough legislation in each country to prosecute poachers and facilitators of their trade.

When it comes to tackling groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army, that same cooperation is needed. As a terrorist group, they have operated across Uganda’s northern borders into South Sudan and west into DRC, and have funded their operations through illicit trade including the poaching and supply of ivory. Similarly cooperation, including military activity, must be considered as an option to break this link in the ivory trade.

Yet this alone will not address the simple fact that many citizens of African countries, perhaps inoculated by the abundance of natural beauty that surrounds them, do not yet share sufficiently the importance of respect and care for endangered animals.

We need to increase education and information for citizens, and particularly for young people on the importance of protecting and nurturing our wildlife and natural world. And we must explain why for ethical as well as economic reasons poaching is so dangerous to the people of Africa.

Attitudes and practices on many critical issues – from women’s rights to the dangers of smoking - have been successfully changed in Africa in recent years through public information campaigns run by NGOs, international development agencies such as the UK’s DFID and African governments themselves.

Yet despite some examples of African-based animal rights and welfare campaigns, this issue has too often been the preserve of concerned Western expatriates. We need to bring the issue of poaching and its devastating effects more directly to the citizens of African countries to make them far more aware of its dangers and, crucially, make them key to the solution.

In countries where farming, animal husbandry and herding remain key livelihoods for many, we must explain to people through such campaigns that poaching of endangered species is unacceptable. Those who profit from this trade threaten the livelihoods of many others, particularly those who work in the tourism industry. Indeed, the greed of poachers and their facilitators have potentially just as devastating an effect on an industry on which millions of Africans depend as it does on the future survival of species such as the elephant and the rhino.

This does not begin to address the issue of demand for ivory and other products of the illegal animal trade, but demand could not exist if there were no way to supply. So just as international efforts to dismantle this illicit business and tackle demand in Asia are vital, it is just as crucial that African governments better police, prosecute and educate - because stopping the ivory trade starts in Africa.

Read more about the Independent Elephant campaign here

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Monday - Israel  

Between the wars in Israel, spending time in a kibbutz was about as cool as you could get

Peter Popham
 

Man Booker Prize: Great books and great authors are sometimes missed out by awards committees

Natalie Haynes
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game