Who Pays for Conservation?: New CITES Publication Calls for Mobilizing Sustainable Finance for African Elephant Conservation

Updated on 01 March 2024


Geneva, 28 February 2024 – Revered as the largest land mammal and a globally iconic species, the African elephant (Loxodonta africana) holds immense value for communities worldwide. However, securing consistent, long-term funding for its conservation within its natural habitats and fostering harmonious cohabitation with humans remains elusive. Despite growing awareness that wildlife preservation yields global benefits, the financial support required remains largely inadequate, with substantial challenges such as human-elephant conflict, habitat loss, poaching and illegal trade.

Loxodonta africana in Nairobi, Kenya © Katya Tsvetkova /Adobe Stock

The Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is delighted to announce the publication of a pivotal document titled "Mobilizing Sustainable Finance for African Elephant Conservation". Commissioned by the CITES Secretariat, this comprehensive paper explores the opportunities for expanding the sustainable financing discussion to include wildlife conservation, with African elephant as an example. 

CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero underscored the importance of this initiative: "The challenge of elephant conservation is both complex and costly, necessitating a move towards innovative approaches to financing conservation costs so as to ensure that no species is threatened with extinction by entering into international trade. This publication is a significant step towards understanding how to address the gap in conservation funding and ensuring the sustainable future of our precious wildlife." 

Noting the critical role of African elephants in ecosystems and economies, the document reviews various financial mechanisms like payments for ecosystem services (PES), carbon credits, green bonds, wildlife bonds, debt-for-nature swaps, and Conservation Trust Funds to assess their applicability towards African elephant conservation. The paper focuses on the need for creating an enabling environment for these financial mechanisms, which includes the involvement of local communities, improved intersectoral coordination, policy reforms, and enhancing conservation performance monitoring.

Available in the working languages of the Convention (EnglishFrench, and Spanish), the publication is targeted towards policymakers, conservationists, financial experts, and all stakeholders involved in elephant conservation and sustainable wildlife management. 

For more information and to access the document, please visit:




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About CITES 

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was signed on 3 March 1973 and entered into force on 1 July 1975. With 184 Parties (183 countries + the European Union), it remains one of the world's most powerful tools for wildlife conservation through the regulation of international trade in over 40,900 species of wild animals and plants. CITES-listed species are used by people around the world in their daily lives for food, health care, furniture, housing, tourist souvenirs, cosmetics or fashion. CITES seeks to ensure that international trade in such species is sustainable, legal and traceable and contributes to both the livelihoods of the communities that live closest to them and to national economies for a healthy planet and the prosperity of the people in support of UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

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