Kenya has reaffirmed its continued push for the closure of all ivory trade markets across the world.
First Lady Margaret Kenyatta says the country will continue with its campaign against the reopening of markets for animal trophies especially ivory.
The campaign is being supported by 31 other African states grouped under the African Elephant Coalition (AEC).
The First Lady spoke at an ivory burning site inside the Nairobi National Park where she presided over the official launch of the CITES CoP18 Awareness Campaign.
CITES stands for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora while CoP18 is the acronym for the Conference of Parties to the CITES.
The CITES CoP18 global conference is scheduled for this month in Geneva, Switzerland.
“Today we are lobbying and petitioning for the closure of all ivory markets, and boldly advocating for the placement of all elephants onto Appendix 1 of CITES,” said the First Lady, herself a renown supporter of conservation work in her capacity as the patron of the “Hands Off Our Elephants” campaign.
“This is the message that we, as a country, as conservationists, stakeholders and as members of the African Elephant Coalition, jointly pledge ahead of the CITES COP 18 meeting,” she added.
The First Lady said every time a proposal is made to partially reopen ivory trade markets, demand for the animal trophies escalates leading to increased poaching.
“We have also learnt that every time there has been a decision by CITES Parties to reopen ivory trade, the decision has resulted in increased elephant poaching and illicit trafficking of ivory,” the First Lady observed.
She said reopening the ivory trade markets will destroy the conservation gains made over the years.
The First Lady said Kenya is host to the most exotic and diverse wildlife species in the world adding that the country maintains a strong resolve to eradicate illegal wildlife trade by building coalitions and partners to strengthen joint actions to protect wildlife across the world.
She said Kenya has not only championed and petitioned the rest of the world for the total closure of all markets in animal trophies, but has previously demonstrated its resolve by publicly destroying huge stockpiles of ivory and rhino horns at the same site where today’s function was held.
Kenya has on four occasions since 1989 torched huge stockpiles of ivory and rhino horns, the last such destruction was presided over by President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2016 where 105 tonnes of ivory and one ton of rhino horns were destroyed.
The First Lady said previous actions by Kenya have not only captured global attention but inspired other ivory destruction in other countries and contributed to the listing of the African Elephant in the CITES Appendix 1, that calls for total protection of the species.
She said bold actions are needed at national, continental and international levels to protect the global population of elephants which has been on a decline from 1.2 million to below 400,000.
First Lady Margaret Kenyatta said despite successes achieved in the past few years in reducing poaching and ivory trade, emerging threats and thriving markets continue to erode the gains made in the past.
She said the 22 tonnes of ivory seized globally during the first quarter of this year confirms the existence of transnational trophy trade criminal networks.
“More recently, another large consignment of elephant tusks was impounded in Singapore confirming that the task before us is not over yet,” she said.
The First Lady said Kenya has put in place several mechanisms to mitigate poaching and illegal trade in ivory including stronger aerial surveillance around conservation areas, built a robust law enforcement and deterrent measures at ports and airports.
“We have also embarked on training of specialist prosecutors, magistrates and judges on wildlife trade,” the First Lady said.
She applauded China and several western countries for supporting Kenya’s call to close all ivory trade markets.
She also commended the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife and its partners for their hard-work and commitment as custodians of Kenya’s biodiversity.
At the same event, national carrier Kenya Airways announced the roll out of a global conservation awareness campaign by use of specially branded boarding passes.
According to Kenya Airways board chairman Michael Joseph,the specially branded boarding passes will have email and website addresses where customers using the airline and its partners can get all information to support wildlife protection.
Others who spoke at the function were the chairman of the African Elephant Coalition and Ambassador of Eritrea to Kenya Meles Alem Tekea and Tourism and Wildlife CS Najib Balala.