By Tshekedi Khama (Botswana Envirnment Minister) | From Independent
With populations of African elephants declining alarmingly in many areas because of poaching, habitat loss and conflict with expanding human populations, Botswana has become one of Africa’s most important sanctuaries in the battle to conserve the species.
The country harbours the world’s largest elephant population, representing about 40 per cent of all those left in Africa. The future conservation of savanna elephants will largely depend upon how they fare in their remaining strongholds. The people of Botswana recognise they are custodians of an import global heritage.
The decision to destroy ivory stockpiles aims to deter consumer demand, the illegal trade in tusks and elephant poaching. Its effectiveness is a matter for each country to determine for itself. Since 1989, some African countries have destroyed about 150 tonnes of ivory, with 25 destruction events in 17 countries. Despite this, 20,000 elephants a year are still being killed annually.
In Botswana, we do not destroy ivory because we have told communities that there is value in conserving elephants for eco-tourism and emphasising that the value of a live elephant should be upheld at all costs.
Burning ivory would demonstrate to them that the animal has no value. We prefer not to burn elephant tusks or rhino horns or any other wildlife product which can be used to show to the wider world the value of nature and the importance of conservation.
Botswana is looking at new ways to preserve our commitment to elephants and our people. In 2014 we unveiled a unique elephant sculpture made of ivory in the arrivals hall at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport.
It serves as a reminder to people who pass through this building each day that conservation of this iconic species is our collective responsibility. Complemented with a conservation awareness message, we are saying that one live elephant is worth so much more than all the art made of ivory. The statue is a lasting memorial to raise local, national and global awareness of the devastating impact of illegal ivory and the determination of Botswana and the global community to put an end to it. No one profited from this contraband.
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