Developing funding and implementation mechanisms to help protect elephants and other flagship species threatened by illegal trade across Africa


Elephants in Dzanga Sangha NPIllicit wildlife trafficking now comprises the fourth largest illegal trade internationally after trafficking in arms, drugs and human beings. Across Africa, more than 35,000 elephants are killed every year for their tusks, to supply the growing demand for ivory, especially from the Far East. In response to this on-going poaching crisis, the African Elephant range States and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) have since 2001 been jointly implementing the Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) Programme, which aims to generate reliable and impartial data on the status, trends and threats to African elephant populations.

MIKE has documented the alarming increases in elephant poaching across Africa and highlighted the urgent need for action to protect the continent’s key remaining elephant populations. In response, with the financial support of the European Union, the CITES Secretariat has recently launched a major new project – MIKES (Minimising the Illegal Killing of Elephants and other Endangered Species) – which aims to build on the strong foundation established by MIKE while expanding on the programme’s scope in several important ways. Crucially, the MIKES Project’s focus has been broadened to include targeted support to enhance the site and national-level law enforcement capacity of African wildlife agencies, focusing on eight critical MIKE sites across the continent. In addition, the new project also includes other flagship CITES-listed large mammals in Africa threatened by international trade besides elephants, in particular rhinos and great apes. MIKES was launched in 2015 and secured Euros 12 million in funding from the European Union to run until 2018.

Our contribution

Firearms training in South SudanCDC has been providing technical assistance to the CITES Secretariat in the implementation and further development of the MIKE Programme for a number of years (see here), including assisting with designing and launching the new MIKES Project. In this respect, our on-going involvement and experience in working with MIKE complemented by key lessons learnt from our review of wildlife law enforcement across Africa (see here) has provided us with a solid understanding of the critical challenges that CITES and the participating range States face in combating poaching and mounting effective wildlife law enforcement efforts.

CDC has also been working with the MIKE Central Coordination Unit in designing and launching the new MIKES law enforcement capacity building initiatives. This has included the identification of the new MIKES focal sites according to rigorous selection criteria based on elephant population significance, poaching threat and law enforcement need, as well as the design and launch of specific law enforcement support packages tailored to the specific needs and challenges of each site. This process was underpinned by the MIKE Law Enforcement Capacity Assessments, which CDC designed and are intended to help participating sites, range States and donors to better understand the status of their law enforcement efforts, pinpoint key areas to target for investments and projects, and monitor progress in strengthening anti-poaching and anti-trafficking capacity.

At the same time, we supported the development of improved MIKE site protocols and guidelines for the collection, management, and analysis of field data on the illegal killing of elephants and on law enforcement effort. In addition, we led the preparation and launch of a new system enabling MIKES to rapidly and effectively respond to emergencies in illegal killing or international trafficking of key species, the MIKES Event Response Mechanism (MERM). MERM focuses on providing technical expertise and other urgent assistance to support wildlife agencies in dealing with site or national level escalations in wildlife crime.