After spending 10 days building a crematorium to burn 105 tons of elephant ivory, 1.35 tons of rhino horn and other exotic animal remains, Kenya set fire to twelve ivory towers on Saturday. The event, which took place in the Nairobi National Park, marked the nation’s fourth such burn to raise awareness on the importance of protecting animals and rejecting illicit business at their expense.
This practice has been embraced in Kenya since 1989 with the purpose of talking the poaching crisis. Esmond Bradley Martin, a wildlife trade expert, said that the tusks from about 8,000 elephants would be valued at more than $105 million on the black market. For its part, the rhino horn from 343 animals would be worth more than $67 million.
Kenya Wildlife Service Director general Kitili Mbathi believes there’s nothing worthy about animal remains.
“From a Kenyan perspective, we’re not watching any money go up in smoke,” Mbathi said, according to CNN. “The only value of the ivory is tusks on a live elephant.”
He oversaw the burn and explained the Wildlife Service built a pumping system that mixed up kerosene and diesel to aid the combustion of the pyres.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta told the crowd that the massacre in the rainforest of Africa must be eradicated. He said 70 percent of the elephants had been lost in central African within a decade and expressed how symbolic the magnificent animal was in the country. The president warned that action must be taken or the remaining elephants would be lost otherwise.
The threat elephants are facing is serious. An elephant is killed every 15 minutes for its tusks. As for rhinos, 1,338 were poached last year in Africa, which is a clear indication that the rate of poaching incidents has jumped given that 2015 was the sixth year in a row that the number has increased.
A few opponents argue the burn will cause the opposite effect
Some burn opponents claim the destruction of those twelve towers will make the price of ivory dramatically increase in the black market and, as a consequence, encourage more poaching.
Conservationist Richard Leakey refuted that idea at the burning ceremony. He said a previous burn actually led to lower ivory prices, from $300 to $5 within three months.
John Scanlon, spokesman for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, told people at the symbolic event that poaching has a devastating impact on the economy. According to an elephant rescue and rehabilitation group called David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, a live elephant produces 76 times more in tourism revenue that it does for its ivory. And Kenya’s tourism makes up 12 percent of the nation’s GDP.