Lazaro Nyalandu, Deputy Minister for Natural Resources & Tourism, Tanzania said in an address to the whole conference: "Poaching is a global problem needing a global solution. It is estimated that Tanzania has an elephant population of 100,000 today but this is cut by 30 a day by poachers. They are so sophisticated that we need a military response. If their activities are not stamped out, we will have lost all our elephants in 10-15 years. We want to see our African neighbours taking a stand with us, pressurising the countries where the poachers' clients live to stamp out this barbaric trade."
The value of ivory and rhino horn continues to rise rapidly, as does the demand for 'wildlife products'. Across Africa, one elephant is being killed every 15 minutes for their tusks. This continued illegal trade will lead to the species' extinction by 2025.
The hotel and tourism industry's concern goes well beyond statements. 5% of all AHIF revenues are being given to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, (DSWT) which looks after orphaned baby elephants and rhinos, including those whose parents have been butchered by poachers, and it has several anti poaching initiatives.
Wildlife is the reason why tourists come to Africa. As each herd is decimated, so too is the potential employment of thousands of people, most of whom are on low incomes. Poaching is not just about killing animals; it's about destroying livelihoods.
"Poaching in Africa is happening on an industrial scale" said Nick van Marken, the leader of Deloitte's international Travel, Hospitality and Leisure practice. He continued: "Poachers are using automatic weapons to slaughter entire herds. They then hack off the tusks and horns. Rhino horn is ground down in Africa and then smuggled out. Wildlife is part of Africa's natural infrastructure - remove it, and one of the primary reasons for visiting the continent will disappear. It's time for the industry to step up and speak out."
Whilst nobody will say so publicly, for fear of repercussions, the suspicion is that ground rhino horn is leaving Africa in diplomatic bags.
To combat the poachers' devastating activities, DSWT currently runs eight fully-equipped Anti-Poaching and De-Snaring Units working together with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), in protecting the greater Tsavo Conservation Area. These frontline teams, accompanied by armed KWS Rangers, are equipped with vehicles, camping equipment, radios, GPS's and cameras, patrolling daily to combat elephant and rhino poaching as well as the threat of bush meat snaring. DSWT's Anti-Poaching Teams have removed over 125,000 snares since inception in the Tsavo Conservation Area.
Andrew McLachlan, VP Africa & Indian Ocean Islands, Carlson Rezidor, said: "Africa is so huge and the borders are so long that it's incredibly difficult to police. The answer has to be action at the point of demand to educate the consumers of ivory and rhino horn about the damage being caused by their desires."
Jonathan Worsley, Chairman of Bench Events, which organises AHIF, said: "We are delighted to support the excellent work of the The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) by raising funds for its anti-poaching initiatives. It is appalling that protected wildlife is under threat like never before. Given the importance of wildlife, not just to humanity, but the tourism industry - for jobs, livelihoods and economic prosperity - we must support the initiatives that tackle poaching and protect Africa's wildlife."
Angela Sheldrick, DSWT said: "Our action is only possible thanks to donors around the world, helping us combat the fight against poachers. The $13 - $15k donated through this event will make a huge difference to our current Anti-Poaching initiatives, helping us to continue to patrol poaching 'hot-spots' and deploying our Rangers efficiently and successfully with the correct equipment. We hope to also send more of our Rangers to Manyani Training Academy to ensure they are professionally trained in Human Wildlife Conflict Measures, Ecology and Ecosystem Management, Capture, Arrest and Weaponry use."