CITES: Saving the African Elephant

The African elephant (Loxodonta Africana) is the world’s largest terrestrial mammal. It is a species of considerable economic, ecological, cultural and aesthetic value to many people and is arguably the world’s most charismatic mega-herbivore. African elephants possess extraordinary intelligence, complex social structures and remarkable abilities to adapt to their surroundings. They play a pivotal role in African ecosystems as unique ‘keystone’ species and natural habitat engineers, while providing an environmental focus for fundraising, awareness building and stimulating action for broader conservation efforts. Africa’s elephants represent strength and power for many cultures on the continent and attract visitors from across the globe.

Sadly, however, the future for African elephants is far from secure. Elephants face a multitude of very serious threats, including illegal killing for ivory and other products, conflict with humans, local overabundance and loss and fragmentation of habitat. The magnitude of these threats, for some elephant populations, is so severe that many predict these populations may be lost entirely. Additionally, those empowered with protecting their country’s natural heritage, while determined to conserve their elephants, are often confronted with dire challenges. The numerous threats posed to elephants are therefore of deep concern to all African elephant range States (Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Republic of South Sudan, Republic of the Sudan, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe).

In 2007, at the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), all African elephant range States were instructed to develop an African Elephant Action Plan (AEAP) tin order to ensure co-ordinated and immediate action towards providing effective protection to Africa’s remaining elephant populations. The AEAP was completed in 2010 and adopted by all African elephant range States. It identifies a series of prioritised objectives, with clear strategies and activities associated with each one. The AEAP represents and seeks to address the real ‘situation on the ground’ in terms of what actions must be implemented and most urgently require funding if Africa’s elephants are to be protected throughout their range. The African Elephant Fund was also established as the means to fund these actions.

ECI’s project – Saving the African Elephant – supported the objectives of the African Elephant Action Plan by capturing attention among key stakeholders on the urgent need to protect the African elephant in its range. The project was implemented in 2016 in partnership with UN Environment (Division of Environmental Law and Conventions) with a grant from the African Elephant Fund.

The project sought to capture international attention by communicating the facts about the risks posed by elephant poaching in Africa. The messages were disseminated through photography and videography.  In addition, ECI developed and disseminated fliers, posters and banners that contain stunning contextual photography of the elephant in order to draw attention to facts about decreasing elephant numbers.

Thorough this project, ECI was able to:

  1. Increase awareness of elephant conservation and management by key stakeholders, including policy makers and local communities.
  2. Increase awareness about the urgency of halting poaching of the African Elephant.
  3. Increase pressure on implementing authorities to take action to fight illegal trade in ivory.
  4. Capture attention and bring to life the priority objectives of the African Elephant Fund through imagery using still photography and videography