Kenya has boosted its war on ivory trade by signing a petition calling on the European Union (EU) to ban ivory trade and close markets.
In a ceremony held in Kasane, Botswana, Environment and Forestry CS Keriako Tobiko signed the petition on behalf President Uhuru Kenyatta, joining 32 other African countries who have signed the petition.
Presidents Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) and Ali Bongo Ondimba (Gabon) also signed the petition.
The petition is part of a campaign aimed at asking European countries to close down their ivory markets.
China, Hong Kong and other key players have already announced ivory bans.
The petition, organised by citizens movement Avaaz, calls on EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella and EU heads of government to close Europe's domestic trade in ivory, end all ivory exports, and support efforts to ban the global ivory trade.
The EU is the world's major exporter of legal ivory and presides over a booming trade. It exported 1,258 tusks in 2014 and 2015 alone, more than the previous eight years combined.
The EU has since advised governments only to export worked ivory, rather than raw tusks, but this legal trade is thought to increase demand for and act as a cover for the illicit ivory trade, which is fuelling Africa's elephant poaching crisis.
Botswana’s President Ian Khama added his name to a civil society petition organised by the global campaigning movement, which has already been signed by more than one million people around the world. Botswana has the highest population of elephants in Africa.
While addressing the Summit, Mr Tobiko said Kenya has made significant strides in environmental conservation reforms.
As part of a national strategy, he said, Kenya has adopted a participatory approach, involving communities in environmental conservation while strengthening legal instruments.
The Directors of Public Prosecutions in Kenya, Uganda and Botswana, working with Space for Giants following Giants Club pledges made at the 2016 summit, have developed new prosecution standards in criminal cases and created new wildlife prosecution toolkits.
These are designed to ensure legal action against wildlife crimes have the greatest chance of successful outcomes.
Mr Tobiko said communities living near wildlife and related environmental ecosystems are the custodians of the environmental biodiversity and must be actively involved in decision making, management and benefits.
“Kenya has made tremendous progress on environmental conservation. For example, we have now raised the rate of successful prosecution of wildlife crimes, including poaching, to 93% last year up from 24% in 2014,” Tobiko said.
He added that key agencies, including the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), have been equipped to deal with poaching through the formulation of rapid response guidelines on investigation and response.
The Giants Club was founded by President Kenyatta and the presidents of Botswana, Gabon and Uganda, with support from Space for Giants and its patron, Evgeny Lebedev, who is the owner of The Independent and London Evening Standard newspapers.
The club was formed to combat the poaching crisis by bringing together visionary leaders to work together to provide the political will, financial resources and technical capacity required to protect Africa’s remaining elephant populations.