But some have criticized the bonfire for wasting materials that, though ill gotten, could be sold to raise funds for conservation.
Kenyan officials have a number of counterarguments to this. For one, there’s been an international ban on trading ivory since 1989, which means in order to raise money this way Kenya would literally have to join the black market it’s trying to end.
But there’s also a more practical argument: Kenya’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism, and elephants are one of the country’s major attractions.
“We strongly believe elephant [ivory] has more value on a living elephant than outside it because humankind can do without ivory,” Patrick Omondi, deputy director of the Kenya Wildlife Service, told Casa Grande Dispatch.
In one very literal sense, that may be true. If a pair of tusks can’t be put back on a living elephant, as far as Kenya is concerned, they may as well burn.