Kenya burns ivory to defy poachers

Posted on May 1, 2016 12:41 am

Kenya has torched 105,000 kilograms of ivory and 1,350 kilograms of rhino horn in an effort to bring World attention to the plight facing wild animals consideration in the country and across the continent.Eleven giant pyres of tusks were set alight as Kenya burned its vast ivory stockpile in a grand gesture aimed at shocking the world into stopping the slaughter of elephants.The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora banned the ivory trade in 1989.Conservationist say destroying the stocks will put anti-trafficking efforts at the top of the agenda at the next CITES conference.China, which has tightened its laws on ivory imports, allows the resale of ivory bought before the 1989 ban, but animal conservationists say the trade in legal ivory acts as a cover for illegal imports and call for a complete ban on sales.Experts have said that Ivory itself does not burn, and so the fire at Nairobi National Park is fuelled by a mix of thousands of litres of diesel and kerosene injected though steel pipes buried in the ground leading into the heart of the pyramids.It was reported that a former film special effects specialist turned pyrotechnic expert organised the fuel-fed fires, drawing on his expertise to ensure the stockpiles burn as planned despite torrential rain that have pounded the Kenyan capital.Africa is home to between 450,000 and 500,000 elephants compared to 1.3 million elephants in the 1970s,but more than 30,000 are killed every year on the continent to satisfy demand for ivory in Asia, where raw tusks sell for around $1,315 per kilogram.Elephants are under serious threat. Every 15 minutes, an elephant is killed for its tusks. According to statistics I have seen, some 1,338 rhinos were poached in Africa last year which was a record number.

An image I captured from television footage showing Ivory burning at Nairobi National Park
An image I captured from television footage showing Ivory burning at Nairobi National Park

The historic bonfires were the largest ever torching of ivory, involving more than 100 tonnes from thousands of dead elephants, dwarfing by seven times any stockpile burned before.Another 1.35 tonnes of rhino horn were also burned, representing the killing of about 340 of the endangered animals.The pyres prepared in Nairobi contained about 16,000 tusks and pieces of ivory.Kenya has a long history of ivory burnings, spearheading a wider movement of public demonstrations across the world, but nothing on this scale before.On the black market, such a quantity of ivory could go for over $131 million, and the rhino horn could raise as much as $105 million.Rhino horn can fetch as much as $79,000 per kilo which is more than gold or cocaine.Despite the size of the piles burned, totalling around 5 per cent of global stocks, the ivory represents just a fraction of the animals killed every year.The ivory seized from poachers and smugglers over several years plus a small fraction from animals who died naturally is equivalent to just a quarter of the number of elephants killed each year to feed demand in Asia.Globally celebrated conservationist Dr. Richard Leakey who serves as Kenya Wildlife Service chief, said the ivory piles “will burn, even if it snows.” Dr. Leakey rubbished critics who claim that the destruction of this stockpile will increase the price of ivory in the black market and encourage more poaching. “That is an ignorant idea,” renowned conservationist Dr. Leakey added. “We did it before and prices went from $300 down to $5 within three months of that fire. It is quite shameful the slaughter of these wild species in a world that seems hell bent on destroying itself anyway, let’s give our support to nature and the endangered species.” Dr. Leakey also said the burning of the ivory should encourage African countries to support a ban in ivory trade and that a group of countries which is advocating for the sale of ivory in the continent should be ashamed. “We will burn ivory and we hope every country in the globe will support Kenya and say never again should we trade ivory,” Dr. Leakey said.

International Media like SkyNews covered the historic event widely
Thanks to SkyNews International coverage of ivory burn in Kenya, I learned plenty about threats facing elephants in Kenya and across Africa.

Gabon’s President Ali Bongo said that the Central Africa’s country forest elephants have declined by two-thirds between 2002 and 2012.However, most of the remaining forest elephants are in Gabon but said they are are facing threats from armed criminal gangs. President Bongo vowed to stop the decline of the species. “To all the poachers, to all the buyers and foreign traders, your days are numbered,” said President Bongo. “We are going to put you out of business and the best thing to do is to retire now.”John Scanlon, spokesman for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species said the “event will allow Kenya to send a very public message to the international community and here in Kenya, that it does not tolerate and it will not tolerate the illegal trade in wildlife.” “Not only it has a devastating impact on the animal themselves and their ecosystem but it has an impact on security, on livelihoods and on economy.” Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta who was the first to light the semi-circle of tusks expected to burn for days in Nairobi’s national park has demanded a total ban on trade in ivory to end trafficking and prevent the extinction of elephants in the wild.”To lose our elephants would be to lose a key part of the heritage that we hold in trust, Quite simply, we will not allow it,” Mr Kenyatta said at a meeting of African heads of state and conservationists.”We will not be the Africans who stood by as we lost our elephants,” he added.French environment minister Segolene Royal announced in Nairobi she was would introduce “a ban on any kind of ivory trade in France” after banning export certificates for ivory last year. She said she would encourage other European states to follow. “We need to kill the trade,” she said.

Contador Harrison