High hopes

West African countries sign elephant conservation pact

By Kirtiman Awasthi
Published: Saturday 31 December 2005

Consensus on conservation (Credit: IISD)AN AGREEMENT aimed at conserving and improving the condition of elephants in West Africa was signed on November 22, 2005, at Nairobi in Kenya, at the eighth conference of parties to the Convention on Migratory Species (cms) of Wild Animals. The agreement was signed by 12 West African countries.

Elephant population in West Africa is small, highly fragmented and vulnerable to a number of pressures. According to R Sukumar, professor at the centre for ecological science, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, loss of habitat, illegal trade in ivory and human-elephant conflict are the major obstacles to conserving elephants. Ivory trade and construction of roads and railways have taken a heavy toll on the elephant population. Habitat destruction by agriculture, urban expansion and civil wars have added to the existing pressures.

This agreement is not just about elephant conservation but could also boost tourism together with the fortunes and prospects of local people. It provides for setting up of wildlife corridors and measures to improve cross border cooperation.

Financial resources, however, can be a constraint for this initiative. "The agreement is only the first step. We now need to raise resources to assist the countries concerned and the partners involved to implement this ambitious project on the ground," said Robert Hepworth, executive secretary of cms.

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