27 January 2016

Kenya: Billionaires, Hollywood Stars to Help Fight Poaching

Several Hollywood stars are among world celebrities expected in Kenya later this year to boost elephant conservation efforts.

The Environment Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu, in a brief Tuesday, said Kenya will host Hollywood A-listers, top conservationists, music superstars and media moguls on April 29 and 30 during the Elephant Protection Initiative summit.

Hollywood stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Nicole Kidman, Yao Ming, Elton John and American businessmen George Soros, Paul Allen and Howard Buffet are expected to attend.

Naturalist and environmental enthusiast Sir David Attenborough and media moguls Evgeny Lebedev, the owner of United Kingdom newspapers The Independent, The I and The Evening Standard as well as Michael Bloomberg, the proprietor of the Bloomberg Media Group are also on the guest list.

They will join several heads of state and governments as well as African film and music stars.

Prof Wakhungu also announced that over 120 tonnes of recovered ivory will be destroyed during the summit.

"This is the largest amount of ivory to be destroyed by any country in the world and it is a sign of our commitment to zero tolerance for poaching and illegal ivory trade," she said.


And this will not be the first time Kenya is enlisting the help of Hollywood stars in the fight against poaching.

In June last year, Oscar award winner Lupita Nyong'o was in Kenya to save elephants, becoming an elephant conservation ambassador with an NGO, WildAid.

Former Sex and the City star Kristin Davis is also passionate about saving elephants and has worked extensively with the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi.

Movie star Angelina Jolie is directing a film on wildlife conservation, starring her husband Brad Pitt.

The movie is loosely based on the life of Kenya Wildlife Service chairman Richard Leakey and his efforts to save elephants from poachers.

Other celebrities that have been involved in elephant conservation are David Beckham, Jon Stewart, Ian Somerhalder and Edward Norton.

Kenya has stepped up the fight against poaching in recent years, even as reports by scientists indicate the elephant population in Kenya and the rest of the world is declining at an unprecedented rate.


The latest statistics show that over 100,000 elephants have been killed in Africa in the past three years.

Conservation efforts have, however, brought poaching down by 80 per cent, with 2015 figures showing that Kenya lost only 96 elephants and 11 rhinos to poachers.

This is attributed to tougher laws that impose high penalties on poachers.

The number of rangers has also been increased by over 1,000 between 2013 and 2015.

There has also been more ivory seized at the Mombasa port and the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Improved surveillance that have brought Interpol on board have also discouraged poaching.

This came as a delegation of the US government toured Mombasa, just a day after signing an MoU with Kenya that will help fight trafficking of products of poached animals.

US Secretary for Interior Sally Jewell, who led the team, said her government is committed to ending the illegal trophy business in Kenya.

"The US has brought on board China, which is a main consumer of the animal products.

I have met several senior Chinese officials to discuss ways of ending this illegal business. The US is determined to end this illegal trade," she said.


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