Uganda forum to help save the elephants

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The Giants Club, the conservation initiative supported by the Evening Standard, yesterday announced that it would stage Africa’s first Conservation and Tourism Investment Forum in October.

The event, which will be held in Uganda, was announced by the country’s president, Yoweri Museveni, at a special press launch at State House in Entebbe.

He said this would be a unique opportunity to harness the financial muscle of the world’s leading hotel and lodge operators to raise vital funds to support Uganda’s wildlife.

Uganda has Africa’s fastest-growing elephant population but, with urgent development needs and a limited budget, the country lacks adequate financial resources to fully support its conservation requirements.

“By inviting conservation-motivated investors to help build a ‘nature-based economy’, we will rehabilitate and manage Uganda’s network of protected areas while delivering economic growth,” Mr Museveni said.

The Giants Club was created by the conservation charity Space for Giants and its patron is Evgeny Lebedev, the Evening Standard’s proprietor.

It has been working with its partners, the United Nations Development Programme and African Wildlife Foundation, to help the Ugandan government identify which of the country’s 3.1 million hectares of wildlife zones would suit new international investment.

Uganda’s Giants Club Conservation and Tourism Investment Forum will then present the best of those opportunities to interested companies who are committed to wildlife-friendly development. Their investment will help preserve and manage Uganda’s protected areas.

The event follows the inaugural Giants Club summit held in Kenya last year which saw £3.8 million committed to conservation and was followed by the burning of Kenya’s stockpile of seized ivory, drawing international media attention.

“It’s understandable that in the present economic climate, governments must prioritise where they spend their money, and conservation may not be top of the list,” said Max Graham, chief executive of Space for Giants, the conservation organisation behind the Giants Club.

“But it’s also true that there are legions of companies around the world who are very keen to take up that slack, to fund conservation of wilderness areas in ways that also build their businesses.

The Forum, uniquely, helps to bring these two sides together, the investors and the authorities, in a way that will drive economic benefits and environmental ones too.”

The Giants Club, of which President Museveni is one of four founding presidents along with the leaders of Kenya, Gabon and Botswana, unites African heads of state, conservationists, philanthropists and global companies. Its objective is to protect half of Africa’s elephants by 2020.

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