Lighting the Fire of Commitment – Ethiopia gets rid of its ivory stockpile

Mar 20, 2015

Elephant presence has been reported as recently as October 2014 by the zonal authorities in Mizane Tefferi in the south of Ethiopia

Smoke rose high from the lush compound of the Ethiopia's Botanical Gardens as Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen walked away having lit the torch that would burn down around 6.1 tons of illegal trafficked ivory.

According to the deputy prime minister, the move to counter the blackmarket trading of ivory and help Ethiopia’s efforts to conserve its wildlife. Ethiopia is estimated to have only 1800 elephants left in the country. It is also estimated that elephants are illegally killed every 15 minutes in Africa for their ivory.

Back in February 2014 in London, Ethiopian Foreign Minister H.E. Minister Tedros Adhanom had remarked that his country had the intention to destroy the national ivory stocks in the near future.

“As we all know, East Africa has been highlighted by INTERPOL as one of the key priority regions to receive assistance to strengthen law enforcement response to elephant ivory trafficking.” UNDP Ethiopia Country Director Mr. Samuel Bwayla noted at the ceremony, underlining, “This clearly gives us an idea of the magnitude of the problem faced by Ethiopia and its neighbors.”

The ceremonial burning of the ivory stockpile, mostly taken from smugglers using the country as a transit point, marked the launch of Ethiopia's National Elephant Action Plan for 2015-2025.

Back in September 2014 UNDP Administrator, Ms. Helen Clark, noted UNDP stood firm in its support to countries, such as Ethiopia, as they work on developing and implementing anti-poaching strategies; promoting livelihoods and involving communities as stewards of wildlife; and working to eradicate demand for wildlife products.

UNDP has already engaged effectively here in Ethiopia on this issue, supporting the establishment of the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority. UNDP’s ongoing project on the Sustainable Development of Protected Areas is helping to build national capacity and strengthen the implementation of policies, such as the one on tackling illegal wildlife trafficking that has led to today’s event.

The Protected Areas of Ethiopia plays a significant role in the country’s economic development, helping strengthen livelihoods and increasing the tourism potential of the country. Towards this end, UNDP has assisted Ethiopia to revise its existing wildlife policy, develop its wildlife marketing strategy; support the establishment of the Ethiopian Tourism Transformation Council and the Ethiopian Tourism Organization, which works under it.

“We hope with the introduction of this transformational initiative that Ethiopia will get a bigger slice of a global industry worth six trillion dollars and generating 260 million jobs – 1 in every 11 jobs in the world,” said Samuel Bwalya.

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