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Kenya Elephant Forum Retreat
A group of concerned elephant-friendly NGOs (non-governmental organizations), comprising members of the Kenya Elephant Forum (KEF) met for a two-day retreat at the Elsamere Conservation Centre on the shores of Lake Naivasha during the last week of November.
The purpose was to devise strategic actions to ensure continued international attention to the threat to African elephants from growing human populations and the demand for ivory fueling the recent upsurge in poaching.
The retreat was convened by KEF chair Pat Awori, who, with some of ATE's closest associates – like Iain Douglas-Hamilton of Save the Elephants (STE), Steven Njumbi of IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), Joyce Poole of ElephantVoices and one of 'our' doctoral students, Winnie Kiiru – was in the front lines of the successful charge to thwart proposals for one-off international ivory sales at the 15th CITES Conference of the Parties (COP) in Doha last March.
The KEF team backstops to the official government representatives from the Kenya Wildlife Service, such as the brilliant negotiator, Dr Solomon Kyalo, who was also at the retreat, along with representatives from the National Museums of Kenya, Youth for Conservation, the Pan African Wildlife Conservation Network, plus Lucy King representing STE and me for ATE.
KEF also provides a strong science and policy base for the African Elephant Coalition, the group of 24 of the 37 African Elephant Range States staunchly against ivory sales and resumption of the ivory trade. Click here for a Fact Sheet on AEC.
The timetable for actions will be driven by the need to muster facts and support over the next two years leading up to CITES COP-16 to be held in Thailand in 2013. The retreat worked on a plan to tackle known individuals in some of the 'borderline countries', such as Zambia, Botswana, Tanzania and Uganda, who tend to side with the southern African position of 'use it or loose it', even if 'it' comprises one of the most social, sentient and intelligent creatures who share ecosystems with humans.
It was agreed that the growing demand in the Far East, China, in particular, had to be tackled with dialogue, education and a persuasive campaign to make ivory unfashionable and totally 'uncool'.
Finally, a bold new idea was elaborated to solve the nagging problem of how to dispose with growing stockpiles of ivory in a way that does not encourage and feed a trade and that wouldn't be as blatantly destructive as Kenya's spectacular burning pyre of 21 years ago.
Imagine the concept of an ivory museum, physically constructed with unworked stockpiled ivory, to serve as an international attraction and local eduction amenity on elephant (and rhino) conservation and science. The code-named 'Pachy Dome' (you can thank me for that one; much better than my initial 'Tusk Mahal'!), would be the culmination of an African design competition conceived to accommodate the annual accumulation of found and seized ivory. Through substantial income generation from local and overseas visitors, it would clearly show the pro-trade lobby that there is a sustainable, self-financing alternative to one-off sales feeding the ivory trade. The KWS board has approved the concept in principle. Watch this space, and, remember, you heard it here first (well, not quite, it's also on Pat's FaceBook page).