THE Kenyan government has made a grim statement against illegal ivory poaching by burning eleven enormous pyres of elephant tusk and one of rhino horn.
The haul, thought to be worth some €150 million on the black market, had been confiscated by Kenyan authorities, and represents around 5 per cent of the total global market, but Kenya believes it to be worthless.
Heads of state from several African nations were present to watch President Uhuru Kenyatta set fire to the illicit remains, and watched on somberly as plumes of smoke and ash drifted over Nairobi National Park, turning the sky a noxious greyish-green.
This is the fourth such burn to have taken place in Kenya but by far the largest, with tusks from over 6,000 elephants and 343 rhinos, plus ivory sculptures, animal skins and other products incinerated.
“The rising value of elephant ivory trade, illegally on the international market, has resulted in a massacre in the rainforest of Africa,” the President told the crowd. “In 10 years in central Africa we have lost as many as 70 per cent of the elephants. The elephant, as has been said, is an iconic symbol of our country. Unless we take action now we risk losing this magnificent animal.
“Kenya is making a statement that for us ivory is worthless unless it is on our elephants. This will send an absolutely clear message that the trade in ivory must come to an end and our elephants must be protected. I trust that the world will join us to end the horrible suffering of our herds and save our elephants for future generations.”
Critics of the event have voiced their concern that the loss of such a significant stockpile will increase the price of ivory on the black market and incite an increase in poaching.
Around 20-30,000 elephants are killed for their tusks each year, amounting to one every 15 minutes, and 2015 saw a record number of poaching incidents for the sixth consecutive year.
The demand comes from Southeast Asia, where an increasingly affluent middle-class spend cash on ivory ornaments and trinkets, and millionaires quaff rhino horn wine as symbol of their social status.
Kenyatta said Kenya will push for a total ban on ivory trade at the 17th meeting of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species, to be held in South Africa later this year.