Kenya Prepares to Torch Largest-Ever Ivory Bonfire (Nairobi)


Magdalene Mukami, Anadolu Agency

Date Published

Kenyan wildlife officers on Wednesday began piling up elephant tusks that will soon form a 120-tonne bonfire of ivory — the largest ever to be incinerated at one time.

The tusks have been seized from poachers, smugglers and traders around the country since 1989 and are due to be torched on April 30. They are estimated to have come from around 4,000 elephants butchered in Kenya alone.

Kitili Mbathi, director general of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), broke the seal of the first container to reveal huge jumbo tusks to conservationists and journalists.

Publicity around the burning has led some Kenyans to question the reasoning behind the decision to burn ivory worth $240 million on the black market. Many argued the haul should be sold and the money ploughed into conservation projects.

Patrick Omondi, deputy director of the KWS, told Anadolu Agency: “Selling ivory does not help in solving the poaching problem.”

He said poaching had increased in Africa, partly due to the experimental lifting of the international ban on ivory between 1997 and 2007 that saw some states legally sell their ivory stocks.

“We as Kenya associate the current high level poaching and smuggling to those experiments,”Omondi said. “It is worth burning the ivory to send a message to poachers and ivory smugglers that ivory is worthless. We are ready to burn the stockpile.”

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has maintained that the burning will serve as proof of Kenya’s zero tolerance approach to poaching and dealing in ivory.