The EPI Foundation is training officials across Africa to manage their ivory stockpiles and prevent leakages onto the illegal market. The latest from Côte d’Ivoire.
To save elephants, we need to stop the illegal trade in ivory, and this involves a lot more than catching poachers. Ruth Musgrave, our Director of Stockpile Management, has just visited Côte d’Ivoire in West Africa, where she helped organise a training course for 40 government officials on best practice in the management of illegal wildlife products, as well as on the use of the EPI’s Stockpile Management System (SMS), a digital tool for secure storage of inventory data.
‘Government stockpiles of ivory must be properly stored and managed, to help prevent theft and to protect evidence for prosecutions’, says Ruth. ‘When ivory leaks back onto the illegal market, and when wildlife laws are not being enforced, we risk perpetuating the continued killing of elephants.’
The course in Abidjan, which was also led by Côte d’Ivoire’s Ministry of Water and Forests (MINEF) and Kiprotich Biwott, of Bityarn Consult, brought ministry staff together with colleagues from the police, customs, and coast guard. Ruth said, ‘It was wonderful to work with such a dynamic and interactive group, and the training was well received. We hope this will assist Côte d’Ivoire with its compliance with CITES regulations.’ Ruth and Kiprotich left 14 sets of equipment to improve stockpile management (electronic tablets, tape measures, weighing scales) with the Ivorian authorities.
The EPI Foundation, with the support of the United States’ Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), has recently conducted similar training in Angola, and is due to deliver more in Gabon and Cameroon later this year. Kiprotich said, ‘As we travel across Africa delivering this training, we’re helping more and more countries to secure stocks of ivory and wildlife products.’
Sadly, although the country’s name evokes former glories, the fate of elephants in Cote d’Ivoire today is precarious. MINEF’s Captain Cedric Mondon said ‘The elephant is the symbol of Cote d’Ivoire, but its situation is increasingly alarming. We went from a population of 3,000 individuals just after independence in 1960… to less than 300 individuals today.’ Captain Mondon said urgent measures were needed to conserve the remaining elephants, including protecting forests, mass awareness campaigns, and strengthening surveillance through the use of innovative technology.