2016 Kenya Ivory Burn

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In Nairobi in April the presidents of Gabon and Kenya set fire to 105 tons of elephant ivory and more than 1 ton of rhino horn, believed to be the largest stockpile ever destroyed, in a dramatic statement by the East African country against the trade in ivory and products from endangered species. The pyres billowed thick plumes of white smoke over yellow flames that consumed the ivory, incited by about twenty thousand liters of jet fuel and oxygen. It was not known how long the burn would last because the burning of such a quantity is unprecedented. The stacks of tusks represented more than 6,700 elephants killed for their ivory and 340 rhinos killed for their horns, plus included endangered animal hides and skins, sandalwood seizures and sacks full of Prunus Africana bark.

A Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) ranger stands guard in Nairobi National Park, 2016

By setting the pyres ablaze the trophies have been placed beyond economic value; it has demonstrated to the world at large that the cache was destroyed and not pilfered back into the black market; and, it has reaffirmed Kenya’s commitment to protect its irreplaceable flora and fauna. Kenyatta, who was joined by other African leaders and foreign officials, has demanded a total ban on the ivory trade to protect the future of wild elephants on the continent.


A time has come when we must take a stand and the stand is clear. […] 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.―Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya

Kenya Ivory Burn, 2016

Kenyatta said that Kenya will push for the total ban on trade in ivory at the 17th meeting of CITES, to be held in South Africa later this year.

Kenya decided to destroy the ivory instead of selling it for an estimated $150 million. Some critics had suggested that the money raised from the ivory sales could be used to develop Kenya and protect wildlife. Some said destroying so much of a rare commodity could increase its value and encourage more poaching rather than less. Others said that the burning would not end the killing of elephants because international gangs take advantage of Kenya’s porous borders and corruption to continue the illegal trade, with the main trafficking route to Asia being through the Kenyan port of Mombasa. But Kenyatta wants to make the point very clear that ivory should not have any commercial value. Before igniting the first pyre, Kenyatta made the statement: “The height of the pile of ivory before us marks the strength of our resolve. […] No-one, and I repeat no-one, has any business in trading in ivory, for this trade means death of our elephants and death of our natural heritage.”


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