The African Elephant Action Plan and the African Elephant Fund received a more than R2 million boost at a meeting held in Skukuza from 12 to 14 December, 2011. The first official session of the trust fund's steering committee took place in the Kruger National Park (KNP) to allocate available financial resources to the first set of eligible projects.
The initiative was created under the auspices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) with the clear understanding that they should be developed by and for the 38 countries where African elephants occur.
The Fund was launched last August at the 61st meeting of the CITES Standing Committee and donations were received from Germany, France and the Netherlands. The three-day meeting in the KNP was attended by participating members of the Committee - Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Sudan representing the range states, while Germany and the Netherlands attended on behalf of the donor countries. The meeting concluded to maintain its focus on activities that ranged from investigating regional illegal ivory markets to mitigating local human-elephant conflicts, providing equipment to rangers and strengthening the management of key protected areas.
The African Elephant Action Plan aims to secure and restore, where possible, sustainable elephant populations throughout their present and potential range in Africa, recognising their potential to provide ecological, socio, cultural and economic benefits. It also aims to ensure a secure future for African elephants and their habitats, to realise their full potential as a component of land use for the benefit of the human kind. The main strategic objectives of the Action Plan are to:
- Reduce illegal killing of elephants and illegal trade in elephant products;
- Maintain elephant habitats and restore connectivity;
- Reduce human-elephant conflicts (HEC);
- Increase awareness on elephant conservation and management of key stakeholders that include policy makers and local communities among other interest groups;
- Strengthen range states' knowledge on African elephant management;
- Strengthen cooperation and understanding among African elephant range states;
- Improve local communities' cooperation and collaboration in conserving African elephants; and
- Ensure the African Elephant Fund Action Plan is effectively implemented.
All sub-Saharan regions of the African continent where elephants occur are affected by poaching and illegal ivory trade. Illegal ivory seized overseas – mainly in Asia - has been found to originate from countries from East, West, Central and Southern Africa. Other than ivory trade and illegal killing, African elephants also phase threats from local over abundance, habitat loss and fragmentation and human-elephant conflict. Therefore, a national, regional and international approach to manage and conserve elephants is essential. The Fund is hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The meeting was made possible through financial support from Germany, and financial and logistical support from South Africa.