By Beth Nyaga, The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation
In a fresh effort to raise awareness and curb the illegal trade in ivory, Kenya has launched a new wildlife conservation campaign dubbed “Ivory Trade is a Rip Off”.
The campaign calls for the listing of the African Elephant in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) – which includes species threatened with extinction – at the Convention’s upcoming 18th Conference of the Parties (CoP18) following the dwindling numbers of elephants as a result of poaching.
It is supported by 31 other African states under the African Elephant Coalition.
The launch, which took place at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, was attended by the Director of UN Environment’s Regional Office for Africa, Juliette Biao, the country’s Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife, Najib Balala, and representatives from Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) and Kenya Airways.
“We are worried – with the lobbying that is going on and opening the ivory trade – that poaching could be revived because there will be a demand and supply,” said Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala. “And that is why we are here today, to bring this awareness.”
CITES introduced the ban on international trade in ivory in 1989 following years of unprecedented poaching; up to 80 per cent of herds are estimated to have been lost in some regions.
“The Kenya Airport Authority was the first in Africa to sign the United Buckingham Palace Declaration, an international initiative that commits players in the international transport supply chain to collaborate in the fight against the wildlife trafficking,” KAA’s Isaac Awuondo said at the launch. “We moved quickly to join in the fight against illegal wildlife trafficking out of the realization that a complex transnational supply chain was enabling this vice and it needed to be disrupted, if not eliminated.”
“Illegal Trade in Wildlife harms sustainable development in Africa. Together we can reverse the trend and protect our wildlife. I urge all stakeholders to join this campaign to eliminate this scourge,” Director of UN Environment’s Regional Office for Africa, Juliette Biao.
Through a partnership between KWS and KAA, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is equipped with canine units trained to detect wildlife products in passenger baggage and cargo.
KAA has been at the forefront in its commitment to the fight against Illegal wildlife trafficking by enacting laws, developing policies and procedures and training personnel to ensure that illegal wildlife products do not pass through airports.
As part of the campaign, 400,000 limited-edition boarding passes have been produced with the message: “Trade of ivory is ripping Kenya apart”.
The Firstlady of Kenya, Margaret Kenyatta also in a bid to champion for the closure of all ivory trade markets across the world said Kenya will continue with its campaign against the reopening of markets for animal trophies especially ivory.
“Today we are lobbying and petitioning for the closure of all ivory markets, and boldly advocating for the placement of all elephants onto Appendix 1 of CITES,” said the First Lady, herself a renown supporter of conservation work in her capacity as the patron of the “Hands Off Our Elephants” campaign.
The First Lady said every time a proposal is made to partially reopen ivory trade markets, demand for the animal trophies escalates leading to increased poaching.
The First Lady said Kenya has not only championed and petitioned the rest of the world for the total closure of all markets in animal trophies but has previously demonstrated its resolve by publicly destroying huge stockpiles of ivory and rhino horns.