Kenya's proposal to have elephant range States financed upon non-commercial destruction of ivory stockpiles was shot down.
The country along with South Africa's proposals was rejected at the just concluded Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora (CITES) 19th Conference of Parties (CoP19), Panama City, Panama.
Despite a spirited campaign, Kenya’s proposals were shot down; 24 nations voted in favour, 50 against, and 33 abstained at the two-weeks conference that ended on November 25, 2022.
The Kenyan delegation’s proposal Doc. 66.2.2 sought to establish a separate fund for the non-commercial disposal of ivory stockpiles to support elephant conservation and research, livelihood and economic development programmes.
“Ivory trade not only stimulates illegal trade and poaching but it produces meagre economic resources that are insufficient to finance conservation efforts in the long term. Indefinitely storing ivory stockpiles, on the other hand, endangers elephant populations by feeding expectations that the ivory trade will resume in the future,” Kenya argued in her push for the new fund.
Though South Africa supported the principle idea of providing funding, it opined that in the interim, the African Elephant Fund should be used to support conservation to allow more consultations among elephant range States that were not consulted by Kenya and submit a revised document to CoP20.
The African Elephant Fund brings together 38 African elephant range States, donor States, UNEP, the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora (CITES) and the Convention of the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) working together to protect elephant populations.
Botswana noted that though the CoP14 parties adopted a resolution to use the fund to provide resources to implement the African elephant action plan, the fund has not received the support initially envisaged and that the establishment of another fund would be unnecessary duplication. Botswana also rejected the criteria which compel range States to destroy stockpiles for conservation and management.
Gabon, with a population of 95,000 elephants, supported Kenya’s proposals.
“Stockpiles maintain demand by sending signals for future value. Stockpiles increase from year to year due to seizures leads to security concerns,” noted Gabon, adding that given the high cost of conservation, countries should receive support for conservation efforts.
Tanzania rejected Kenya’s proposals and aligned with her regional bloc partners of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Tanzania said that the African Elephant Fund has continued to provide resources and wondered how the proposed fund will be different.
“Encourage donors to fund through African Elephant Fund to meet the needs of African elephant range States. Kenya’s proposal is unacceptable,” Tanzania maintained.
The US supported Kenya’s recommendations and proposed a working group that will develop terms of reference for establishing the fund for elephant range States to access upon non-commercial disposal of ivory stockpiles.
“We need to generate solution by generating revenue for national elephant management plans and anti-poaching strategies and serve local communities that co-exist with elephants on their land,” the US observed.
The United Kingdom acknowledged the financial burden that the management of stockpiles places on parties but was of the view that any resumption of trade in ivory risks creating demand which will outstrip supply.
Japan called for the review of the African Elephant Fund and urged parties not to consent to the destruction of stockpiles as a starting point.
Zimbabwe opposed Kenya’s proposals saying another fund would create unnecessary duplication and overlap.
Mali supported the noncommercial destruction of stockpiles, adding that the existence of stockpiles, and calls for sales or buyouts, can lead to hopes for the resumption of the ivory trade, which risks perpetuating illegal trade and poaching.
“Kenya’s idea is to bring all range States together to ensure that with this fund, the range of States would have access to funds which are higher than benefits linked to trade in ivory, and could help to sustain efforts to protect the elephant,” Mali noted.
Guinea Bissau said the only way to ensure the conservation of species is to have the fund accessible for range States.
Kenya argued that the major source of funding for biodiversity conservation is of a public nature and public sources are responsible for 80-85% of the total finance, with national governments providing 54-60%.
The Kenyan delegation said that based on a rule of thumb of Sh24,000 per square kilometre to effectively manage protected areas, the annual investment for conservation required for the whole African elephant range would be around Sh76 billion, which is equivalent to $626 million annually.
Kenya gave an option of financing non-commercial ivory disposal through the Global Environment Facility. “Consideration should be given to directing GEF funds to elephant range States holding ivory stockpiles if they agree to destroy those stockpiles,” Kenya’s document stated.
Kenya had also proposed Debt-for-Nature Swaps (DNS) as another source of funding. In this way, some of the foreign debt from African and Asian range States could be forgiven in exchange for their commitment to destroy ivory stocks and invest in elephant conservation.
According to Kenya’s submissions in Doc. 66.2.2, if a Debt-for-Nature Swap program could be established, for example, on the basis of 2% of total annual debt service paid by African range States in 2020, the instrument could liberate almost Sh138.5 billion per year to fund elephant conservation efforts, providing more than Sh40,000 per square kilometer of range area.
Other financing options that had been suggested by Kenya included: dedicated allocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) by the International Monetary Fund (IMF); Payment for Environmental Services; Carbon offset initiatives: Green bonds; Private trusts and funds; Public-Private Blended Funds along the lines of Global fund for coral reefs.
Kenya will now have to polish her proposals through further consultations and expert input with elephant range States and, hopefully, submit a revised document during the next CoP20.
Earlier, the CITES meeting also rejected Southern African countries' attempt to reopen the global ivory trade through another ‘one-off’ sale of stockpiled tusks.
Led by Zimbabwe, the SADC countries said they have ensured good governance and demonstrable wildlife and habitat conservation successes. The 15 Southern African nations argued the SADC region is home to more than 80% of the world’s total African elephant population and should be recognized for good management through the ivory trade.
When put to the vote, 15 State parties voted in favour, 83 against, while 17 abstained, thus failing to garner the two-thirds majority for a nod.
Had the proposal passed, it would have allowed the sale of ivory from national stockpiles of Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa. A similar proposal was rejected at the CITES conference in Geneva in 2019.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Deputy Vice President of Conservation, Mathew Collis, said the ban will prevent the poaching of elephants and their tusks.
“We have seen the devastating effect of the ivory trade on elephant populations across the world that have been ruthlessly targeted by poachers. Any legal ivory trade provides opportunities for criminals to launder poached elephant ivory into the market. There was a disastrous increase in poaching across Africa after the last ivory stockpile sales in 2008, and there are no obvious buyers this time round,” said Collis in a statement.
The meeting also placed a temporary ban on live elephant exports from Africa. Zimbabwe and Namibia have been trading in live elephants. In 2019, Zimbabwe sold more than 90 elephants to China and Dubai.