On Thursday, 11th of this month four East African countries were represented at the Laico Regency hotel. Lusaka Agreement task force (LATF), which is the secretariat and operational arm of the Lusaka agreement on co-operative enforcement, was the one that organized and convened the meeting. The meeting brought together chief executive officers, their heads of wildlife authorities and policy makers from Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda. Having all of the executives synchronize would foster cooperation and cultivate synergy.
Four different executives from the various East African countries aired their opinions on what was needed to ensure safety for wildlife and particularly for elephants. Mr. Bonaventure Ebayi the director of Lusaka Agreement Task Force began by thanking Kenya for hosting the meeting. “I am hoping that this meeting will lay a good foundation for East African director’s forums”. Mr. Ebayi said. He mentioned that the biggest concerns are the elephants and rhinos that are being poached and as a result are reducing day by day. The illegal ivory trade particularly in East Africa has become a dilemma as well as a loss in our African wildlife. The director stated that it is important for all wildlife institutions to join their forces together in order to take care of this problem once and for all.
Henri Fournell, Project Wisdom Manager promoted solutions that would save the wildlife. He stressed on the fact that none of the solution made would be successful unless they all worked together. Project Wisdom Manager supports investigations and efforts made to save wildlife and step in to help further if asked. Mr. Fournell said that one of the things they offer is analysis, for example criminal intelligence analysis. The information is thereafter strictly shared with the owner. He believes that wildlife issues should always be seen as a national security problem that should be handled at a national level. Their aim as a project is to setup a training facility which will aid with theoretical knowledge that will help investigate wildlife crimes.
Regional coordinator of wildlife and forest crime programmes, Mr. Javier Montano said that we have hope. According to him countries have significant resources to help but unfortunately criminals also have resources. Due to corruption in our countries these criminals are constantly outsmarting efforts made. Mr. Javier was a man of few words but his emphasis was clearly made especially concerning the criminals; who also traffic drugs as well.
Mr. Patrick Omondi, Chairman of the African Elephant Fund stressed that elephants are been killed and poached in our country. Elephants are animals that cannot protect themselves like humans, the only thing they can do best in trample across territories in protest and hurt the communities living there. What we have failed to understand as Mr. Omondi said is that these large animals require large terrestrial land. Keeping in mind many people have settled near forests in the villages and as a result have been attacked. Though this does not give anyone a right to kill them, Kenya Wildlife Service has been handling reports quite well so far. The African Elephant Fund is administered by the United Nation Environment programme( UNEP).
The representative of the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Mr. Stephen Manegene spoke on behalf of Prof. Judi Wakhungu. He called upon the participants to support Lusaka’s mission. The recently enacted 2013 wildlife act has helped the Ministry of Environment commit to the cause of saving wildlife. As wildlife crimes become more complex and dynamic, the realization to synergize has become more apparent. Mrs. Wakhungu’s also congratulated the Lusaka Agreement Task Force on how far they have come with their project.
With all the organizations working together there is hope that they will share intelligence and support wildlife conservation. There were so many solutions, though the implementation needs to be done as soon as possible. Most East African countries rely on wildlife as a source of revenue in the tourism sector. Wildlife poaching has led to massive losses in the tourism sector and we are also losing part of our heritage. If the organizations work together and have the support of government, there is no doubt that our wildlife will be saved and we will have a significant drop in poaching.