Gabonese President Bongo and Kenyan President Kenyatta. 
Photo: Trine Hay Setsaas.Gabonese President Bongo and Kenyan President Kenyatta. Photo: Trine Hay Setsaas

Kenya burns more than 100 tonnes of ivory in the fight against poaching

Last updated: 02.05.2016 // The Norwegian Embassy witnessed 30 April the burning of elephant ivory and rhino horn in Nairobi National Park, as a symbol in the fight against the present slaughtering of elephants and rhinos across Africa. President Uhuru Kenyatta and the renowned conservationist Richard Leakey set the fire ablaze.

Heads of State, Ministers of Environment, Ambassadors to Kenya and conservationists saw 105 tonnes of elephant ivory and 1.3 tonnes of rhino horn disappear in flames, worth over USD 172 million. "The rising value of elephant ivory trade, illegally on the international market, has resulted in a massacre across Africa," said President Kenyatta. "In 10 years in central Africa we have lost as many as 70% of the elephants. Unless we take action now we risk losing this magnificent animal."

The largest burn of illegal wildlife products in history is meant to send a powerful message to the world that ivory has no value and that its trade should be banned. This was Kenya's fourth such burn in a practice that goes back to 1989, when Kenya succeeded in halting the wave of poaching that resulted in the ban of international trade in ivory.

There are however critics who say that burning will only increase the demand for ivory.  "That is an ignorant idea," chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Service Richard Leakey told the crowd at the burn ceremony. "We did it before and prices went from $300 down to $5 within three months of that fire. It is quite shameful the slaughter of these wild species in a world that seems hell bent on destroying itself anyway -- let's give our support to nature and the endangered species."

Indeed, Kenya’s burned ivory only represents 5 percent of what is currently held in government stockpiles across Africa. According to conservationists, South Africa, Namibia and others have resisted burning of their ivory in hope of a future legal sale. Countries that hoard ivory stocks “are speculators on an evil, illegal commodity,” added Richard Leakey.

Norway supports the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), based in Nairobi, in the global fight against environmental crime with NOK 20 million in 2015. This very serious environmental challenge will also be a topic when the world environment ministers gather in Nairobi in 2 weeks for the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), to be held 23 – 27 May. The Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment, Vidar Helgesen, will be present at the Assembly.      

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