President Uhuru Kenyatta Burns Ivory on World Wildlife Day
President Uhuru Kenyatta set to fire fifteen tonnes of ivory on 3 March 2015, at the Nairobi National Park, during the celebrations to mark the World Wildlife Day.
This was the third and the largest consignment of ivory to be burnt in the country’s history.
Kenya, yet again, stepped forward to show great leadership and commitment in the fight against poaching and against trade and the trafficking of ivory.
It was a great day for conservation organisations and individuals who dedicate their lives to saving Kenya’s wildlife, and especially the elephant.
An estimated 33,000 elephants are killed every year across Africa. That is equivalent to 100 elephants every day. This is mainly fuelled by demand half way across the world in Asia.
In his speech, the president promised that this was the beginning of what would see the country destroy all of its ivory stockpiles within the year, estimated to be about 115 tonnes more.
“Ivory and wildlife trophies must be put beyond economic use everywhere in the world,” the president said.
There has been arguments put forth that confiscated ivory should be sold and the proceeds put into funding conservation efforts.
But this has not worked in the past.
Kenya’s wildlife has more value to the environment and to the economy when in its natural ecosystem and habitats. The proceeds from elephants in the wild, for instance, far outweigh the proceeds that would be gained from the sale of ivory.
“The key message from today is that Kenya is not a safe haven for poachers nor is it a safe country for ivory traffickers,” said Dr Paula Kahumbu, the CEO of WildlifeDirect. “This is a turning point moment for all of us in conservation. At WildlifeDirect, we are committed to creating awareness and fighting for justice for wildlife. We are really glad that the government is taking action and showing commitment to tackling the poaching crisis”.
President Uhuru recollected about the first instance when ivory was burnt in Kenya; in 1989 by the then president Daniel Moi – with the guidance of WildlifeDirect founder and renowned conservationist , Dr Richard Leakey. The president said that 25 years after that first historic burning of the ivory, which had led to the collapse of international ivory markets, a new threat had emerged.
Dr Leakey was present for this ivory burning session as well.
“The new demand for ivory from emerging markets once again threatens Africa’s elephants and rhinos,” said President Uhuru. “And African countries are concerned about the scale and rate of the new threat to our endangered wildlife species”.
And the demand for ivory in recent years has been skyrocketing, especially in the far East where a kilo of ivory fetches USD 2000 on the black market.
“The demand for ivory is there,” says Iain Douglas-Hamilton, the founder and CEO of Save The Elephants. ” And unless the demand is reduced, it is capable of finishing the African elephants from the wild,” said Hamilton at the ivory burning ceremony.
This move to yet again burn ivory by the Kenyan government is a bold and very symbolic statement that will resonate across the world.
Dr Kahumbu pointed out that the burning of ivory will send the message that Kenya is not a safe for poachers and will not be a safe haven for any trafficker.
“What Save The Elephants and WildlifeDirect are doing is sharing the awareness of what buying ivory means,” said Dr Hamilton. “We’re sharing the awareness of what buying ivory means in terms of lost elephants lives , wounded elephants, death and destruction …and by sharing awareness, it means that anyone buying ivory after they know the facts, cannot be innocent anymore”.
The leaders in conservation hope that the burning of ivory will send the message to those who are buying ivory and banking on extinction- that they will know that their investments are not safe.
“Great countries are making strides toward banning the trade in ivory in which case, their investment will amount to zero,” said Dr Iain Douglas Hamilton.
Last month, China imposed a one-year ban on the import of ivory, amid criticism that demand from its consumers was fuelling poaching in Africa. “While this is a step in the right direction, a lot more would be helpful in saving Africa’s elephants,” said Dr Hamilton.
As the president said, “Poachers and their enablers will not have the last word in Kenya.”