17 March 2015

In Kenya's news: 15 tons of ivory are burned to discourage the illegal trade

The tusks will burn for five days, under armed surveillance, until only ashes.

Kenya incinerated 15 tons of elephant tusks last week in a symbolic gesture against the illicit ivory trade.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta lowered a burning torch to a three-tiered pile of ivory tusks, sending flames and smoke swirling high into the air above Nairobi National Park.

Speaking at the event held on World Wildlife Day, Uhuru said the burning represents Kenya's commitment to stopping the ivory trade: “African countries are concerned about the scale and rate of the new threat to our endangered wildlife species. We are committed to combating the menace robustly and persistently until we dismantle the entire vile economy. Many of these tusks belonged to elephants which were wantonly slaughtered by criminals. We want future generations of Kenyans and the entire world to experience the majesty and beauty of these magnificent beasts. Poachers and their enablers will not have the last word."
Let’s get serious about wildlife crime. 
~ UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Save The Elephants, a London-based wildlife conservation group, said 100,000 elephants were killed in Africa between 2010-2013. Elephants could go extinct by the middle of the century if the trend continues. Ivory trafficking has been driven mostly by demand from Asian consumers who use the material to make jewelry and ornaments. Ian Douglas Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants, said research released by his organization showed that the price of elephant ivory has tripled in China since 2010.

The African elephant once ranged across most of the continent from the Mediterranean coast to the southern tip. It is thought there may have been as many as 3-5 million African elephants in the 1930s and 1940s. In the 1970s, there were only 1.3 million elephants. That number is now down to 500,000, mostly due to poaching.
In Kenya, the population plummeted by 85% between 1973 and 1989. There are 37,000 elephants remaining in Kenya, according to data from Kenya Wildlife Service.

Kenya first burned 12 tons of its ivory stocks in 1989 under former president, Moi. Another public burn of five tons was held in 2011, by former president, Kibaki.

The public act of burning ivory is meant to send a message to the world about the value of wildlife. "We would like to tell the world to stop the trade in ivory because it is destroying our economy, our heritage, and our environment," said Paul Udoto, a spokesman for the Kenya Wildlife Service.

[information from voanews.com and aljazeera.com, 3 March 2015; also forbes.com, wikipedia.org, and panda.org]

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