African leaders meet in Kenya for summit on elephants

By Andrew Ross

NAIROBI, Kenya (AA) – Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday hosted several heads of state, government representatives from around the globe, wildlife protection experts and Hollywood celebrities for the inaugural summit of the Giants Club, an initiative aimed at protecting African elephants.

The Giants Club summit is an initiative started by four countries — Kenya, Gabon, Uganda, and Botswana — which hold the large numbers of the remaining African elephants.

“This historic meeting heralds a new beginning, not just for Kenya, but across a number of elephant range states, the decisions we take here will determine the future of our elephants,” Kenyan leader Uhuru Kenyatta told the opening ceremony of the summit which is taking place at the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club in Laikipia, north of the capital Nairobi.

Kenyatta told the conference that Kenya was proud to be associated with an initiative that sought to combat poaching by bringing together visionary leaders of African elephant-range states, heads of major businesses operating in Africa, and the best elephant-protection experts to provide the political will, financial resources and technical capacity that are so urgently required to save Africa’s remaining elephants.

“The conservation of the African elephant is no easy matter: these giants must contend with many threats,” the Kenyan leader said.

These include the rising cases of illegal killing of elephants for ivory, human-wildlife conflict and the loss of natural wildlife habitats among others, trends that have been witnessed among all elephant-hosting nations.

According to the founders of the Giants Club, the elephant-protection charity Space for Giants, “the aim of the summit will be to provide the political will, financial muscle, global influence and technical capacity required to save Africa’s remaining elephant populations and associated endangered species”.

The event was also attended by President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. Speaking at the conference, the Gabonese president supported the club’s efforts to end illegal trade of ivory and poaching in Africa.

“It is sad that poaching is turning our elephants into refugees,” he said.

The summit comes a day before Kenyan leader Uhuru Kenyatta presides over the burning of 105 tons of ivory, as well as 1.35 tons of rhino horns and other illegal wildlife products to send a message to poachers and traffickers that Kenya will not tolerate illegal wildlife trade.