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Stop the Illegal Wildlife Trade: Rwandan President joins club of six African leaders in our fight for endangered species

Arjun Neil Alim
·3-min read
<p>Ceremony: Lord Lebedev with Paul Kagame </p> (Plaisir Muzogeye)

Ceremony: Lord Lebedev with Paul Kagame

(Plaisir Muzogeye)

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has endorsed the Evening Standard’s Stop The Illegal Wildlife Trade appeal by joining an international conservation forum led by our campaign’s charity partner Space for Giants.

President Kagame became the sixth African head of state to join the Giants Club, a forum that brings together African leaders with major business leaders, philanthropists, and global influencers to protect some of the continent’s most important natural landscapes that hold populations of large wild animals.

Evgeny Lebedev, the Evening Standard’s proprietor, is patron of Space for Giants and the Giants Club. He was present in the capital Kigali to witness the signing ceremony which saw Rwanda officially join the conservation initiative. Also present was Dr Max Graham, the founder and CEO of Space for Giants.

Lord Lebedev said: “It is increasingly clear that the health of the natural world is not separate from the health of humanity. President Kagame has led the way in committing Rwanda to a path of sustainable development. I am proud to work with such a visionary leader on this vital cause.”

Rwanda, famous for its mountain gorillas, has been a global leader in recent years in restoring conservation habitats and has used revenue from wildlife tourism to fund national economic development.

The country is increasing its focus on restoring a network of national parks, including Akagera, which hosts the “big five”: elephants, lions, leopards, buffalo and rhino. President Kagame spoke exclusively to the Standard and praised the Giants Club for helping show the value of international co-operation on wildlife and landscape protection. The president added that conservation has been at the heart of his government policy.

“We need to protect our environment because if you’re not protecting your environment, you’re not protecting yourself,” he said.

“And in the process we learn that in conserving the environment there is no conflict with economic well-being. In fact, with preserving the conservation of the environment, you can realise economic benefits equal to or better than what you are used to doing.”

The Akagera national park in RwandaAFP via Getty Images
The Akagera national park in RwandaAFP via Getty Images

Dr Graham said: “Rwanda under President Kagame’s leadership has become a beacon for how a country can build conservation into a national economic sector to benefit all. That resonates very strongly with the Giants Club, which promotes best practice in getting things done in conservation that deliver those wide rewards from protecting natural landscapes and their species.

“We are incredibly proud and excited that President Kagame has joined the Giants Club.”

Rwanda has become a beacon for how a country can build conservation into a national economic sector

President Kagame joins President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana, President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, who are all joint leaders of the Giants Club. Botswana’s former president Ian Khama acts as president emeritus.

The Standard’s Stop The Illegal Wildlife Trade campaign, in partnership with Space for Giants and the anti-illegal wildlife trade charity Freeland, aims to combat the factors that contribute to poaching, wildlife crime, environmental degradation and the spread of zoonotic diseases like Covid-19.

In his declaration, President Kagame pledged to continue the country’s work to combat the illegal wildlife trade in Rwanda and its neighbours.

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