Kenya’s First Lady, Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta, has launched a ‘Rip off Campaign’ at the iconic Ivory Burning Site in Nairobi National Park to reaffirm Kenya’s position on ivory trade.
The campaign is meant to focus attention on Kenya and other like-minded countries’ opposition to international ivory trade ahead of the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) conference of parties in Geneva, Switzerland from August 17 to 28.
The First Lady stated that Kenya will not relent on her resolve to eradicate illegal wildlife trade and build coalitions with partners to strengthen her joint actions to protect wildlife. Kenya has championed and petitioned for the closure of ivory markets worldwide by lobbying for this agenda and publicly disposing of her entire ivory stockpiles five times, since 1989.
These actions captured the world’s attention and inspired ivory destruction in other countries, in addition to building a strong case for listing of most populations of the African elephant in the CITES Appendix, which offers the highest protection.
Mrs Kenyatta expressed concern that every past decision by CITES parties to re-open the ivory trade has resulted in increased elephant poaching and illicit trafficking of ivory. This is exacerbated by Kenya being a key transit point in the region, and unfortunately also for illegal trade of rhino horn, pangolin scales, and ivory.
“Over 22 tons of ivory were seized globally from thousands of poached elephants in the first quarter of this year, confirming the existence of transnational crime,” she said.
The First Lady applauded the commitment by China and many European countries in supporting the call to close ivory markets, saying that at a national level, Kenya has put in place stronger surveillance around parks, built a robust law enforcement mechanism and put in deterrent measures in sea and air ports to fight poaching and illegal wildlife trade. She noted that there are more rangers on the ground and an elite anti-poaching force that has been created, as well as training of specialist prosecutors, magistrates and judges, on wildlife trade.
The First Lady said Kenya is the only country in Africa that holds a digital database of all wildlife crime cases and provides whistle-blowing platforms to augment law enforcement efforts.
She acknowledged threats posed by human-wildlife conflict and the challenges of managing large elephant populations and urged all African countries to work together as a continent to address the challenges caused by the threats of climate change, as well as find alternative, sustainable solutions to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts which affect rural livelihoods.
Mrs. Kenyatta appealed to nations to reconsider the disastrous effects of reopening the ivory trade as this would destroy the gains made, and lay waste to the investments and resources employed and the many lives of Conservation Heroes lost in the line of stopping the killing of wildlife.
Kenya and her partners are lobbying and positioning for the closure of all ivory markets, and boldly advocating for the listing of all African elephant populations in Appendix I of CITES.
“Stop ivory trade because elephants and ivory belong together,” said The First Lady as she officially launched the ‘Rip off campaign’ to be rolled out throughout August.
Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Hon. Najib Balala explained that Kenya is obligated to co-operate with other parties and regulate international trade in the CITES-listed species of wild fauna and flora.
He said that chief among the proposals to be submitted for consideration during CITES Cop18 are: Listing all populations of the African Elephant in Appendix I; Implementation of aspects of the Resolution on the Closure of Domestic Ivory Markets and Implementation of the Resolution on trade in elephant specimens.
“Thirty-seven African countries are range States for the African Elephant and 32 of them have formed the African Elephant Coalition (AEC) since 2007 to fight against ivory trade. These 32 countries share the common position of “No Trade in Elephant Ivory,’’ and are committed to continued championing of this position in CITES meetings until the African elephant is secure across its ranges,” he said.
This has informed the launch of a two-pronged awareness promotion about the CITES CoP18 meeting, in partnership with Kenya Airways and Kenya Airports Authority, to spearhead the global fight against trade in ivory. The ‘Ivory Trade is a Rip-Off’ promotion involves the production of 400,000 limited edition keepers KQ boarding pass, with a QR code which, once scanned, directs one to more information on this campaign hosted on the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife website.
Kenya Wildlife Service Director General, Brig.(Rtd) John Waweru explained the symbolism of the Ivory Burning Site to the ‘rip off campaign,’ saying that bold statements had previously been made at the site which influenced international policies on the conservation and management of endangered species of wild flora and fauna. “The burning of more than 12 tons of ivory in 1989 sent a clear message that the ivory trade was decimating the world’s elephant populations,” he said
Kenya Airways chairman Michael Joseph said the company had printed 400,000 special edition aircraft boarding passes to emphasize that elephants and ivory should not be ripped apart, adding his organisation practices a zero-tolerance policy on illegal wildlife trade.
Others in attendance at the launch included the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife Joseph Boinnet, Tourism Principal Secretary Joe Okudo, KWS Board of Trustees chairman, Dr. John Waithaka, and conservation stakeholders.