Fire burns part of an estimated 105 tonnes of ivory and a tonne of rhino horn confiscated from smugglers and poachers at the Nairobi National Park near Nairobi, Kenya, April 30, 2016. REUTERS
How Ivory tusks went up in flames at Nairobi National Park
President Uhuru Kenyatta on Saturday put piles of elephant tusks and rhino horns on fire in an effort to end poaching.
Uhuru accompanied by the Gabon president Ali Bongo torched 105 tonnes of ivory, a haul that is equivalent to 65,000 elephants.
He was cheered on by world leaders, dignitaries and celebrities at the Nairobi National Park where he led the torching of tonnes of ivory.
The President lit the first pyre as the public watched in amazement. He destroyed a stockpile that would have been worth a fortune to smugglers.
Plumes of smoke rose as the flames took hold of tusks, the biggest ever incineration of its kind.
This encouraged many viewers to take the pictures, with some recording the whole event.
Uhuru and Kenya Wildlife Services Chairman Richard Leakey later posed after setting the elephant tusks on fire as they admired the whole process.
Earlier, Uhuru took a swipe at countries claiming that Kenya was burning ivory yet it is a poor country.
He said that the government must take a stand to combat poaching.
Kenya relies on tourism through safaris at luxury camps characterised by the trove of animals, particularly the “Big Five” among them elephants, rhinos, leopards, lions and buffalos.
Renowned conservationist Richard Leakey urged Africa and other nations to destroy their ivory stocks too.
To those who refused, he said: “They are speculators on an evil, illegal commodity. There are can be no justification for speculating price rises in ivory down the road.”
Pledges last year by China and the United States, two of the biggest ivory markets, to enact almost complete bans on imports and exports have helped drive ivory prices lower.
But rhino horn prices are still rising, conservationists say.
Armed patrols of sanctuaries and other measures have helped curb some illegal hunting but the animal’s future remains grim.
Kenya alone had 20,000 rhinos in the 1970s, falling to 400 in the 1990s.
It now has almost 650 black rhinos. The country is protecting the last three northern white rhinos as scientists race against time to find artificial reproduction techniques.
Poachers in Kenya can sell the horns of a single dead rhino for the equivalent of about $50,000 (Sh5 million) in local markets, earning in one night what would take them many years in regular employment.