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PRESS RELEASE: Gabon launches elephant fences

Gabon’s President Ali Bongo launches Human-Elephant Conflict Mitigation Strategy in his role as a founder of the Giants Club

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LIBREVILLE, GABON (9 August 2016) – The President of Gabon, one of the founding members of the Giants Club conservation initiative, today demonstrated his commitment to his people and conservationists globally by officially launching the first elephant fence in Gabon.

Human elephant conflict is a daily reality across Gabon where people and elephants live side-by-side in many locations, resulting in economic losses to farmers and retaliatory killings towards elephants.

Elephants are capable of destroying entire livelihoods in a single night. The construction of the electric fence will protect several hundred farmers and significantly reduce damages caused by elephants in the region, thereby boosting local support for their protection.

Announcing the start of work on building the project, President Bongo said: “Here in Gabon we are lucky to live amid some of the most beautiful forests on the planet and to share our country with one of the world’s most special creatures: the forest elephant. Yet in Gabon we also have some of the hardest working farmers who help produce the food for our tables.

“This fence is an important step in protecting their livelihoods, while also helping protect our elephants from leaving their natural habitats. I am delighted work has now begun on this fence and I would like to thank the Giants Club, and its implementation charity Space for Giants, for the assistance they are providing our wildlife service in delivering this project for the Gabonese people.”

The launch of the 50km fence project, which the Giants Club has helped finance to USD 200,000, comes just three months after the inaugural Giants Club Summit hosted in Nanyuki, Kenya attended by African presidents, philanthropists and conservation experts from around the globe. The goal of the Giants Club is to effectively protect some 200,000 elephants – 50% of the continental total – by 2020.

Supporting the launch of the project are Professor Lee White, Director of the Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux, and Dr Max Graham, the CEO of Space for Giants, the Giants Club’s implementation charity.

Prof White said: “Today the President, with support from the ANPN and Space for Giants, has made a clear statement of intent to secure our people’s livelihoods and preserve our natural heritage for future generations. We look forward to scaling up and delivering a comprehensive human elephant conflict mitigation strategy in the months to come.”

Dr Graham said: “Gabon is home to the vast majority of forest elephants remaining on this great continent and it is here where the future of the species will be decided. The implementation of this human elephant conflict mitigation strategy is critical to ensure that people and elephants can live together for generations to come. We are delighted by this show of commitment by one of the founding members of the Giants Club.”

Short electric fences (3 foot tall), with electrified protruding arms (outriggers) conducting charges in excess of 7000 volts have proven the most effective at keeping elephants at bay in Giants Club-supported projects in Kenya and the fences in Gabon will mirror this sophisticated elephant-proof design. This initial pilot fence will take approximately four months to construct and will use over 10,000 poles and 400km of electrified wire.

Along with the construction of elephant-proof fences, President Bongo announced at the Giants Club Summit in April that the ANPN would double its staff capacity from 750 to 1,500 greatly increasing their impact on the ground. Frontline protection and judicial interventions initiatives to boost the ranger network on the ground and support the criminal justice pathway in courts will also be delivered in the coming months.

The Giants Club is supported by ESI Media, the UK-based media group that owns the London Evening Standard newspaper and The Independent digital sites. ESI Media’s owner, Evgeny Lebedev, is patron of the Club and also of Space for Giants.

With Gabon, the Club’s other member states are Kenya, Botswana and Uganda. Together these countries are home to almost half remaining savannah elephants and some 70 per cent of the forest elephant.

CONTACTS:

Dr Max Graham, Space for Giants: +254 722 485 584, max@spaceforgiants.org

Prof Lee White, Gabonese Parks: +241 07840063, lwhite@parcsgarbon.ga

Pictures available on request from Alex Dymoke, Independent: +447874997903, alex.dymoke@independent.co.uk

Space for Giants is an international conservation charity, with more than a decade of experience in the conservation and management of African elephants and the landscapes they depend on. Space for Giants provides frontline protection for African elephants in the wild; works to secure space for elephants; mitigates human-wildlife conflict; trains conservationists; and raises inter-national awareness of the threats facing elephants today. The Giants Club is its new pan-Africa wildlife initiative. Visit www.spaceforgiants.org for more information.

Human elephant conflict (HEC) refers to any human-elephant interaction, which results in negative effects on human life (social, economic or cultural), on elephant conservation or on the environment. HEC occurs wherever people and elephants are forced to share space and is characterized by crop destruction, property damage and/or death of people and elephants. Electric fences of the correct design that produce high voltages are increasingly seen as the most effective way of excluding elephants from areas of human habitation at a landscape level.

Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux is the arm of the Gabonese government entrusted with the management of 13 national parks covering approximately 11% of the country’s surface. ANPN’s mission is to ensure the long-term protection and enhancement of Gabon’s parks in order to create a conservation model recognized worldwide. The ANPN is responsible for implementing the government’s policy on national parks and is directly supervised by the Presidency of the Republic.

ESI Media is the commercial division of the London Evening Standard, The Independent, London Live and their many digital platforms. ESI Media has a monthly cross platform reach of 20.8 million adults. The London Evening Standard is read by more than 1.9 million Londoners every day, and The Independent digital sites monthly reach 50 million unique users. Visit www.esimedia.co.uk for more information.