Eritrea has become the 20th country to join the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI). The EPI is a coalition of African countries dedicated to the sustainable conservation of elephants and ending the ivory trade.
The EPI was founded in 2014 by the leaders of Botswana, Chad, Ethiopia, Gabon and Tanzania. It has since been spreading across African countries. The EPI member countries are committed to maintaining the 1989 international ban on the ivory trade, closing down domestic markets in ivory, putting their ivory stockpiles beyond economic use, and implementing the African elephant action plan, a blueprint to save the species.
Eritrea is home to one of Africa's most northerly and isolated elephant populations. Speaking in Geneva, Switzerland, where he was representing the Eritrean government at the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) conference, the Director of Natural Resources, Regulatory Division, Ministry of Agriculture Mr Yacob Yohannes said, "We are very pleased to join this important coalition. This shows the determination of the Eritrean government to protect its natural resources and in particular its elephants."
In a keynote welcoming remarks Miles Geldard, CEO of the EPI Foundation said, "We are delighted that Eritrea has joined the EPI. Elephants have been recorded in Eritrea since Biblical times, and today the elephants of the Gash Setit region, which are believed to migrate between Eritrea and Ethiopia, are a symbol of resilience and hope. We will do our utmost to assist the Eritrean government in their conservation, and in ensuring Eritreans derive benefits from these efforts."
The African elephant is the largest animal that walks the earth. It is found in 37 African countries. There are two subspecies of African elephants — the Savanna (or bush) elephant and the Forest elephant. The forest elephant is smaller and darker than the Savannah elephant.
Sadly, elephants are listed as a vulnerable species. There are approximately 415,000 African elephants in the wild. However, 20,000 are killed each year — 55 each day — mostly for the illegal ivory trade.
The elephants are important not just for tourism which many African countries rely on for their economies, but also their presence helps to maintain suitable habitats for many other species. In central African forests, up to 30% of tree species require elephants to help with dispersal and germination. African elephants play a pivotal role in shaping their habitat because of the enormous impact they have ranging from freshwater to forest cover.
A majority of Africa’s surviving elephants — both forest and savannah subspecies — are in EPI countries.
Header Image Credit: EPI