By Jennifer Joanh
The Federal Republic of Nigeria has formally joined the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI), a coalition of African countries dedicated to the sustainable conservation of elephants, and ending the ivory trade.
Nigeria’s Minister of State for the Environment, Ibrahim Usman Jibril, speaking in London at the Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) Conference, said, ‘it is our duty to save what we have inherited from our parents and grandparents, and our responsibility to protect species that are endangered.
“Nigeria is committed, we will continue to partner with other African countries and the world at large to ensure that the intentions of the EPI are carried out at the highest level”.
In a statement signed by Director Press of the federal Ministry Of Environment ,Saghir el Mohammed , said John Stephenson of the EPI Secretariat stated that ‘We are delighted to welcome Nigeria as the 19th member state in the EPI. As an African-led initiative, it is important for us to have a true giant of the continent on board. We held warm and productive talks with the Nigerian delegation in London, and we look forward to working with the Nigerian government on ways of shutting down internal ivory markets, and developing a National Elephant Action Plan [NEAP]’.
The EPI was founded in 2014 by the leaders of Chad, Gabon, Ethiopia, Botswana and Tanzania. EPI countries are committed to shutting down internal ivory markets, putting national ivory stockpiles beyond economic use, maintaining the international moratorium on the trade in ivory, and developing National Elephant Action Plans. These long-term plans, intended to conserve elephants and benefit the human communities who live alongside them, are designed to be compatible with the African Elephant Action Plan, which was signed by all African elephant range states in 2010.
The EPI held its inaugural Consultative Group meeting in London during the IWT Conference. It was chaired by President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, and attended by President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana, as well as ministerial delegations from several EPI countries, including Nigeria. Donor governments, including the UK, and multilateral institutions such as the World Bank, UNDP and the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) were also present. Seven EPI countries- Chad, Gabon, Angola, Malawi, Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya- presented completed NEAPs, requiring some 268 million USD over the next three years.
Africa’s elephant population has fallen dramatically in recent decades. An estimated 55 African elephants are killed every day, mostly by ivory poachers. There are thought to be just over 400,000 elephants surviving in sub-saharan Africa, compared with 1.3 million in 1979. Nigeria has only a few hundred surviving elephants. The largest herd is in Yankari National Park, with smaller relict populations in the forests of southern Nigeria and the savannah of northern Nigeria. The EPI’s John Stephenson said “Working together with the Nigerian government, we’d like to ensure the conservation of Nigeria’s elephants, and also prevent the smuggling through Nigeria of ivory largely originating from neighbouring states”.