Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta set fire to over 100 tons of ivory on Saturday in a display against poaching. The burning, the fourth of its kind in Kenya, had twelve towers of elephant and rhino tusks. During the event, Kenyatta renewed his call for a total ban on ivory trading. Kenyatta pledged to bring up an issue at a wildlife trade meeting in South Africa. Speaking before the large crowd at Nairobi National Park, Kenyatta said, “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.”
“In 10 years in central Africa we have lost as many as 70% 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.”
Several heads of state from around Africa gathered with hundreds of onlookers at the national park to witness the event. The burning is expecting to continue for several days and it took the park rangers ten days to assemble the towers.
The fire is supposed to signify that ivory trunks have little value if not on the animal. Ivory is one of the most sought-after materials in the world. However, some economists fear that the burning will backfire and instead cause increased poaching in order to make up for the decreased supply. The ivory in the fire was almost all of the ivory seized by Kenya. The burning was the largest of illegal wildlife materials in history.
30,000 elephants are killed every year for their tusks.
Kenya does have a financial stake in seeing elephants survive. Tourism makes up 12% of Kenya’s GDP and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust found that an elephant makes seventy-six more times tourism revenue than it generates from its ivory.