Sunday Standard

22 Mar 2018

KASANE- Philanthropists, governments, and corporate leaders from Europe, China, the US and Africa this past weekend pledged more than $6 million for urgent action to protect wildlife habitats at the close of a key conservation summit.

Despite “justified” celebrations of anti-poaching progress that has seen illegal killings of elephants dropping for five years in a row across Africa, “the job is not done” to protect populations forever, the Giants Club Summit it was said.

The Kavango-Zambezi Trans frontier Conservation Area (KAZA) around the borders of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe is home to the largest remaining populations with more than 220,000 elephants.

The Summit heard that parts of this ecosystem now faced increased pressure from poachers. Central Africa’s herds of forest elephants also continue to suffer very high levels of illegal killing.

“The message couldn’t have been louder that we need to act now,” said Max Graham, CEO of Space for Giants, the international conservation organization that co-hosted the event with Botswana’s endangered wildlife trust, the Tlhokomela Trust.

“There’ve been some major gains made against poaching and we’re justified in celebrating that. But to hear that elephants in the region we thought were safest are actually under new and growing threats, that’s a huge worry.”

He said he was grateful that the Giants Club had come together and done what it does best, ‘galvanizing new money for quick and effective action.’

Summit outcomes for the four Giants Club countries of Botswana, Gabon, Kenya and Uganda, plus other KAZA nations of Angola, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe included:

The Giants Club will also work with national wildlife services and partner organizations to nominate individuals for the Ranger Award Programme of the Paradise Foundation, established by Alibaba founder Jack Ma and other leading Chinese entrepreneurs.

“The Ranger Award is designed to raise awareness about threats to Africa’s wildlife and the critical role that front-line rangers play in conservation,” Ma said. “By working with the Giants Club countries, we will be able to significantly widen the reach of the Award, and thereby attract a greater number of candidates for nomination in recognition of their outstanding contribution to wildlife conservation.”

A US$2 million grant donated by the European Union will be implemented by Space for Giants and the Tlhokomela Trust. It will pay to train and mentor wildlife rangers sharing operational intelligence and resources across the border region. It will also boost legal deterrents against poaching by making investigations and prosecutions stronger across the five countries.

The Giants Club Members’ Challenge Fund includes pledges from the Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Foundation (MISK), the foundation of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, and other Giants Club members.

The Giants Club is an initiative of Space for Giants that aims to effectively protect half of Africa’s elephants and their landscapes by 2020 by uniting the political will, technical know-how, and financial muscle to achieve that goal.

Its founding members are the presidents of Uganda, Gabon, and Kenya and the Tlhokomela Trust. Together their countries are home to more than half of Africa’s 415,000 remaining elephants.

“Our elephants are under threat from poaching and we’re not satisfied that the equation has been concluded on anti-poaching,” said Tshekedi Khama, Minister for Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism. “These populations of wildlife are the reserves for the future. The day when we all realize that environment and wildlife are the most important assets that we have, will be the day we can say we have succeeded. There’s no time left now for talk talk talk, we just need to get on with it,” Khama said, adding “That’s why this has been such an amazing conference. Of many of the initiatives to protect elephants, the Giants Club is the first one that we’ve seen something tangible coming out.”

The Giants Club’s members include international philanthropists and financiers, and key influencers including celebrities. Conservation scientists are technical advisors. The Summit gathers members to hear innovative ideas how to protect elephants and their landscapes before negotiating finance and securing political will to expand the reach of those ideas.

The Giants Club Summit unites visionary leaders of African elephant-range states, enlightened heads of major businesses operating in Africa, global philanthropists, key influencers and leading wildlife protection experts. Together, these individuals provide the very highest levels of political action, financial investment, global influence and technical capacity that are needed to protect Africa’s remaining elephant populations from poaching, habitat loss, and human-elephant conflict. The Giants Club’s goal is to protect half of Africa’s elephants by 2020. The four countries represented in the Club’s founding membership are together home to half of Africa’s savannah elephants and half of its forest elephants. Space for Giants is an international conservation charity that protects Africa’s elephants from immediate threats like poaching while working to secure their habitats forever in landscapes facing ever-increasing pressures. “Everywhere we work, in Kenya, Gabon, Uganda, and Botswana, we use science and best-practice to develop and deliver anti-poaching initiatives, secure protected landscapes for elephants, work to lessen the problems that arise where people and elephants live alongside each other, and provide conservation training and education.” The organization says. Space for Giants are based in Kenya.