Elephants are in danger and that danger escalates as long as their tusks bring in the big bucks on the black market. Kenya, which is a country that loves their elephants, is fighting fire with fire in a move that would make many cash-strapped governments cringe.
Somewhere on this planet every 15 minutes an elephant is killed strictly for its ivory tusks, reports CNN News on April 29. These majestic creatures could very well be an animal known only in history as these deaths escalate each year. In a few generations to come kids may only be able to see an elephant in a photo and for this reason Kenya is burning millions of dollars’ worth of confiscated tusks along with rhinos horns today.
Kenya is far from a rich country and they are holding a stockpile worth millions of dollars in confiscated tusks and wild animal skins from the poachers who were caught by law enforcement. On Saturday Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta will toss a match to the largest pile ever created of illegal poaching items.
This pile consists of 105 tons of elephant ivory, 1.35 tons of rhino horn, exotic skins and other illegal poaching items such as sandalwood and medicinal bark. Tusks from about 8,000 elephants are in this pile along with horns from 343 rhinoceros. If sold at auction this pile would bring in approximately $172 million.
Mongabay News reports “A total of 16,000 tusks and other ivory products have been arranged in eleven big piles at Nairobi National Park.” This burn is believed to be “the largest-ever destruction of ivory stockpile in Africa’s history.” This burn is meant to send a strong message against poaching.
African governments struggle with what to do with the confiscated goods of poachers, especially with the amount of money this would bring in at auction. Kenya doesn’t struggle one bit about what to do with what they confiscate and this is not the first time they’ve watched a potential fortune go up in smoke.
This is the largest stockpile they have ever burned. This is the fourth time since 1989 that Kenyan has burned a huge stockpile of what they’ve confiscated from poachers.
CNN reports that “under the leadership of renowned conservationist Richard Leakey, the Kenya Wildlife Service developed the idea of burning illegal ivory in 1989.” President Daniel arap Moi, who was the president at that time, torched the first burn consisting of 12 tons of ivory.
“Within six months of the burn, in 1990, the elephant poaching virtually stopped in Kenya and in most African countries because there was no market,” said Leakey. “The only solution was to kill market and we did. It was dead for close to 10 years, maybe longer.”
Many believe the tusks and rhino horns should be sold and the money used to protect the elephants, who are by far the biggest target for poachers. This pile of illicit wildlife goods is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $172 million and according to CNN, “that is one and a half times more than Kenya spends on its environmental and natural resources agency every year.” Can you imagine what all that money can do for a struggling country?
International Business Times reports this burn on Saturday is “the largest stockpile globally, constituting nearly 5 percent of the world’s ivory.” With all the corruption going on within the governments of the world, kudos to this poor country that turns its back on a potential windfall for the sake of detouring the poachers.
“The Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) allows the trade of ivory under certain circumstances” and this has offered a windfall for many cash-strapped countries. In 2008, $15 million was raised at an auction of stockpiled ivory that was confiscated from the poachers. This money provided South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana money that they put toward conservation initiatives for elephants.
Kenya’s government sees this differently. A live elephant is worth much more to Kenya’s tourism as over its lifetime it “generates 76 times more in tourist revenue than it does for its ivory,” according to an elephant rescue and rehabilitation group called The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust as reported by CNN News. Saving the elephants means getting the ivory off the market and Kenya does this by turning it all into ashes.