The Government of Botswana through the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism on Friday kicked off this year’s five-day Kasane Elephant Summit.
The summit is being held in the tourist town of Kasane, over 1000 km from the capital city of Gaborone. The objectives of the Elephant Summit, which brings together Heads of States, ministers, Regional Integration bodies for the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA), inter-government organisations, conservation organisations, wildlife researchers, donors and philanthropists are to raise awareness on the current status of the African elephant in the southern African region, exchange ideas on the Human-Elephant Conflict, the illegal and legal trade as well as to agree on concrete interventions to address the challenges posed.
The Summit, preceded by a technical meeting, was officially opened by the President of Botswana, Dr Mokgweetsi E. K. Masisi and is to be followed by the Ministers’ meeting on May 6. It will conclude with the Heads of State Summit on the 7th May 2019.
The Summit also aims to discuss the most recent developments, concerns as well as challenges encountered and solutions to be adopted in the field of Human-Wildlife Interaction. The African elephant has been the subject of much discussion in international for a such the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES). The conditions for trade in elephants and their parts and derivatives have been the subject of often acrimonious debate with onerous conditions being placed upon those countries whose elephant populations are currently on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendix II.
A moratorium on international trade was in place from 2009-2017 but illegal trade actually increased tremendously during the nine-year period. Meanwhile, ivory stocks held by the countries whose populations are on Appendix II have continued to grow at an exponential rate. This has placed an undue burden on such countries to secure this valuable resource.
Any efforts by southern African elephant range states to manage their populations are subjected to constant media glare with much of this coverage ignoring the plight of rural communities, who bear the brunt of living with elephants. For instance, most recently, when Botswana consulted citizens on lifting the suspension of the ban it resulted in a global uproar from which the country is still reeling. The search for effective measures and a lasting solution to address challenges posed by elephants is one of the most significant conservation challenges facing many governments in the southern African region. The region is home to the largest number of elephants on the continent, with 75% of the elephants found within the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA).
There is serious concern about the recent upsurge in the illegal offtake of elephants on much of the African continent. While overall, poaching has not had the same impact in southern Africa as in other regions, it has severely affected some populations.
The challenges of poaching notwithstanding, elephants in southern Africa continue to be found outside protected areas with many found in unprotected areas. This poses additional challenges for wildlife authorities and wildlife managers as the Human-Elephant Conflict continues to escalate, especially where human and agricultural expansion moves into new areas already occupied by African elephants.
Livestock and crop farmers and residents in wildlife areas constantly have to contend with elephants destroying crops and threatening livelihoods and food security. To this end, the Government of Botswana has found it prudent to organise a summit to generate a better understanding of elephant management and the associated challenges, as well as to seek measures through which to better address the challenges with the influence of the KAZA initiative.
The summit concludes on May 7.
By Meekaeel Siphambili