Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta gave a boost to the international fight against poaching on Tuesday by setting fire to more than 15 tons of elephant ivory tusks during a ceremony at the Nairobi National Park.
The event was hosted by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to commemorate the World Wildlife Day which also coincides with the Africa Environment Day and the Wangari Maathai Day.
The 2015 theme of the World Wildlife Day is “Wildlife Crime is serious; let’s get serious about wildlife crime.” According to information available on the UN’s website, the day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly on the 20th of December 2013 primarily to “celebrate the many beautiful and varied forms of wild fauna and flora and to raise awareness of the multitude of benefits that conservation provides to people.”
Kenyatta would be the 3rd Kenyan leader to ceremoniously ignite ivory tusks seized from poachers. In July 1989, former President Daniel Arap Moi burnt 12 tons of ivory during a similar event in Nairobi. In 2002, the immediate former President Mwai Kibaki also hosted an event in Nairobi where he set fire to 5 tons of elephant ivory which had been confiscated in Singapore after it had been established that they were smuggled from Zambia and Malawi.
The inferno of the tusks will burn for 5 days under armed 24-hour surveillance, reducing the tower of ivory to ashes.
It is difficult to place a value on the ivory. Paul Udoto, the Corporate Communications Manager of the Kenya Wildlife Service said the organization cannot quantify in monetary terms the value of the consignment, “because Kenya does not trade in ivory.”
Africa’s elephant population has been experiencing a rapid decline largely as a result of poaching. In the 70s, there were more than 1.3 million elephants across the continent. That number is now down to roughly 500,000—37,000 are in Kenya, according to data from KWS.