By Alex Dymoke
February 26, 2016 / The Independent
The President of Kenya is to host a historic gathering of African leaders in April to address the elephant-poaching crisis in the first meeting of the Giants Club, the wildlife-protection initiative backed by The Independent.
It will be followed by the burning of a vast 120 tonne stockpile of ivory, much of it seized by the Kenyan state from poaching gangs, to show the government’s zero tolerance to the illegal wildlife trade. The blaze will be eight times larger than any ivory stockpile previously destroyed before.
Announcing the summit in an article for the Independent, the Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, said that he and his fellow African leaders “will use this opportunity to underline the global intent to put an end to the butchering of elephants and rhinos by selfish criminal gangs”.
He continued: “I am delighted to host the inaugural Giant’s Club Summit in Kenya. Together we will all play our part in preserving the planet’s greatest animals.”
The Giants Club was founded by the Kenyan-based elephant-protection charity Space for Giants, whose patron is Independent andStandard proprietor Evgeny Lebedev. It was formed to combat the poaching crisis by bringing together political leaders, corporate heads and conservationists to protect Africa’s remaining elephant populations.
Mr Lebedev welcomed President Kenyatta’s announcement. “I have loved conservation and Africa throughout my life, but only in recent years have I seen how urgently we need to work to combine the two,” he said. “Many of the continent’s most iconic species face extinction. Time is short – but this summit is the right way to address this critical situation, and I am hopeful for its outcome.”
In the past three years, 100,000 elephants have been killed in Africa to supply ivory to illegal markets. Proceeds from this illegal trade are being used to support criminal activity, armed conflict and terrorism. Front-line conservationists have been injured and killed in their hundreds.
The Presidents of Gabon, Botswana and Uganda joined Kenya in founding the Giants Club initiative last year. More African leaders, including the Presidents of Tanzania, Liberia and Chad and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, have also been invited to attend the Kenya summit, which is to be held on 29 and 30 April and is being organised in association with Kenya’s Environment Secretary, Professor Judi Wakhungu.
They will be joined by some of the largest companies working in Africa, including Olam and De Beers, as well as conservation experts. The event is being supported by Kenya Airways.
The ivory burn will be staged at 3pm on 30 April in Nairobi National Park, organised by the Kenya Wildlife Service, supported by the anti-ivory trade charity Stop Ivory.
Dr Max Graham, founder and chief executive of Space for Giants, said: “The world’s most powerful individuals are being brought together to focus not just on the immediate poaching crisis, but also on the longer-term challenge of ensuring Africa’s conservation estate is sustained, forever. President Kenyatta and the Giants Club will achieve something extraordinary.”