- A total of 16,000 tusks and other ivory products have been arranged in eleven big piles at Nairobi National Park.
- Tomorrow’s ivory burn is believed to be the largest-ever destruction of ivory stockpile in Africa’s history.
- Wildlife officials and conservationists believe that burning of the ivory will send a strong message against poaching and wildlife trafficking.
Tomorrow, Kenya will set fire to more than 105 metric tons of elephant tusks, representing several thousand dead elephants. This ivory burn is believed to be the largest-ever destruction of ivory stockpile in Africa’s history. Kenya’s Wildlife Service will also burn over 1 metric ton of confiscated rhino horns.
A total of 16,000 tusks and other ivory products have been arranged in eleven giant piles at Nairobi National Park. Wildlife officials and conservationists believe that burning of the ivory will send a strong message against poaching and wildlife trafficking.
Since ivory doesn’t burn easily, several metric tons of illegally cut sandalwood seized from smugglers have been placed at the base of the ivory piles. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta will light the pyres tomorrow, and a fuel mixture of kerosene and diesel will be pumped with pressurized air through steel pipes into each pyre to help incinerate the ivory. The destruction of ivory can take several days, Washington Post reported.
“It will be a pleasure to burn it and do my part to destroy any possibility that poachers and their accomplices might benefit from the slaughter of Kenya’s elephants,” President Kenyatta said in a statement published in Kenya Daily Nation. “No one would be surprised if I said I was going to burn illegal drugs: everyone knows that whatever the price they would fetch if sold, they should not be sold. Everyone can see the same point about the illicit brew that has done so much harm to Kenyans. And yet, when it comes to the trade in ivory – which is destroying our wildlife and funding some of the most extreme violence on the continent – some fail to see that the ivory should also be destroyed.”
Every year, poachers kill more than 30,000 elephants for their tusks. Demand primarily comes from East Asia, especially China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines.
Kenya’s neighbor, Tanzania, is an elephant poaching hotspot. Elephant numbers in the country have plummeted by more than 60 percent between 2009 and 2014, from nearly 110,000 to fewer than 44,000. Experts say that elephant poaching in Africa has become more sophisticated and industrialized following the involvement of international crime gangs.
Wildlife officials believe that the ivory burn will help focus attention towards the plight of one of the most threatened species on the planet.
“My feeling is that many people who are buying this ivory in China and elsewhere simply don’t know what it is doing to elephants,” Richard Leakey, chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), told Scientific American in an interview. “Maybe they think that it is coming off elephants that have died of natural causes. When Kenya burns $100 million worth of ivory, they’ll say, ‘What the hell was that about?’ It will help open their eyes to what is actually happening.”
CITES Secretary-General, John E. Scanlon added in a statement, “While the destruction of confiscated elephant ivory or rhino horn will not in itself stop the illegal trade in elephant ivory or rhino horn, when coupled with rigorous and consistent enforcement and demand reduction measures, it can serve as a deterrent to people from engaging in these illicit activities.”
Conservation group WildAid will be covering the event live via Twitter on Saturday.
— WildAid (@WildAid) April 28, 2016