Three Francophone countries have joined the Elephant Protection Initiative, an Africa-led conservation initiative to eradicate ivory trade and stop the slaughter of the continent's elephants by poachers.
Cote d'Ivoire, Mali and Guinea joined the initiative in the course of 2017 -- raising the number of signatories to 18. The three countries will work together to implement a sub-regional approach to elephant conservation.
"The contribution of Mali, Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire to elephant protection issues is critical. It is imperative that as we work together to deliver on the African Elephant Action Plan, we harness the diversity of experience and efforts of Africa in protecting elephants.
Francophone Africa is a vital cog in elephant protection in Africa," said John Stephenson, chief executive of international conservation NGO Stop Ivory -- which supports the continental initiative.
"Launched by Botswana, Chad, Ethiopia, Gabon and Tanzania, with the support of the British government in 2014 during at the London conference on illegal wildlife trade, the EPI, aims to stop the illegal ivory trade and secure a future for elephants.
Record ivory seizures
The EPI members and their partners, advocate for the integration of elephant conservation efforts into overall national development plans for long term conservation successes.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme, illegal wildlife trade generates between $7 billion and $23 billion annually globally.
And, the International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates that Africa's elephant numbers fell by 111,000 between 2006 and 2015, due to increased poaching.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora CITES in its report released last year says that overall, elephant poaching in Africa has been on the decline for the fifth year in a row but seizures of illegal ivory hit records highs.
The fall in poaching numbers is also attributed to increased anti-poaching efforts at international ivory markets, including China and Britain.
In January, China, the world's largest ivory importer and trader imposed a total ban on trade of ivory products in the country, after a two-year phase out process which saw the wholesale price of raw legal ivory in the country drop by almost two-thirds from $2,100 per kilogramme in early 2014 about $730.