World Elephant Day: from Conflict to Coexistence, with the theme of “From conflict over resources to valuable allies in the fight against climate change: a new understanding of the importance of elephants” was successful held on August 12, 2021. It was co-hosted by China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, Apes Alliance, Elephant Protection Initiative and BGI. 119862 audience took part in this event online to push forward to protect elephants.
Now, CBCGDF shares Mr. John Scanlon’ speech to all of you.
Good afternoon and a big thank you to our good friends and colleagues at the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation for putting on today’s event and for inviting me, and my colleague Grant Burden, to join you.
The long, and very public, march of the herd of 16 Asian elephants in China’s Yunnan Province over the past year has captured the imagination of people across China, and right around the world. We have seen extraordinary images of these majestic animals sleeping, taking a mud bath, and playing, and the images of the two calves that were born en route have been particularly captivating.
At the same time, we have been starkly reminded how these large, hungry, thirsty animals can raid farmlands and people’s homes, and pose a real threat to the safely of local people, and of the effort that is required to keep both elephants and local people happy and safe. We have seen that it’s not easy and takes a great collective effort on the part of the authorities, local communities and supporting organisations to combine the use of practical mitigation measures, technology, local solutions, and political buy-in.
And we have all been inspired by the extraordinary lengths the Chinese authorities, non-government organisations and local communities have gone to, to keep the wandering herd of elephants and local people safe and well, and with great success.
The challenge of balancing the needs of elephants and of local communities, to ensure harmonious coexistence, is not peculiar to China, or any particular Asian or African elephant range State. It is a common challenge that every State is grappling with.
The Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI) is an intergovernmental initiative of 21 African elephant range States. Our original mandate was heavily focussed on tackling poaching of elephants for their ivory, which was the greatest threat to the survival of Africa’s elephants just ten years ago. In fact, over a period of three years, from 2010-2012, it was conservatively estimated that over 100,000 elephants were killed for their ivory. The situation has improved since then due to the collective efforts of source, transit and destinations States to address both demand and supply. But poaching of elephants for their ivory continues to pose a real threat, especially in Central and West Africa, and we must remain vigilant and continue to enhance our collective efforts.
However, looking across the horizon to 2030 or to 2050, it is Africa’s rapidly growing human population and economic growth, with new and expanding human settlements, related infrastructure, and the conversion of land to agriculture, that loom as the largest threats to elephants. With these changes comes an ever-increasing risk of escalating human-wildlife conflict, as people and elephants compete for land and dwindling natural resources.
Across Africa, elephants are losing their migratory paths, their habitats are under increasing threat, people are being tragically injured and killed, and farmers are seeing their crops destroyed. Africa’s human population is expected to double by the year 2050, and more people will mean increased pressures on land and resources. There will be less space available for all species and not just elephants. Conservationists must think clearly about this challenge and discuss openly how to manage elephants in human dominated landscapes. These challenges are felt across Asia and Africa.
The EPI Foundation has responded through our 2030 Vision, which is to achieve the harmonious coexistence of people and elephants with herds able to travel across their range. Thereby protecting a diverse range of wild animals and plants, combating climate change, and supporting local livelihoods. We will achieve this Vision by fostering high-level dialogue, enabling local solutions and amplifying African voices, and we are seeking to forge links between African and Asian governments, and stakeholders to establish cross-continental partnerships and mutual support for dealing with human-elephant conflict.
Today we celebrate World Elephant Day and this wonderful event connects organisations and people dealing with Asia and African elephant challenges, which are common to both continents. We have much to share and learn from one another, and we are delighted to announce that the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation has today joined the EPI as a partner organisation, being the first organisation from China to do so.
We have closely collaborated with the Foundation over the past year, as China works to find the best way of managing the wandering elephants in Yunnan Province. With the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation joining the EPI, and our engagement with the Chinese authorities, we can foresee wonderful opportunities to enhance cross-continental collaboration and partnerships, as we all work together towards a common objective of securing harmonious coexistence between people and elephants.
Finally, perhaps somewhat prophetically, the wandering elephant herd reached the outskirts of Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province. As you may know, Kunming will host the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity later this year. Let’s hope that the unexpected visit by these majestic and awe-inspiring animals, may also serve to inspire all Governments to adopt an ambitious strategic plan for biodiversity to 2030.
Thank you again for the invitation and Happy World Elephant Day 2021.