Kenya turns up the heat on ivory poachers

A haul of ivory and rhino horns, claimed to be the world’s biggest, has been burned in Kenya as a sign that the country does not tolerate wildlife poaching.

Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta was joined by the president of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba, deputy president William Ruto and other dignitaries to set fire to the 105 tonnes of elephant tusks and 1.35 tonnes of rhino horn at the Nairobi National Park. It is expected to take several days to completely destroy the ivory and rhino horns.

President Kenyatta called on other nations to launch an attack on the trade in ivory and other wildlife trophies and called for a complete ban in any form of trade in ivory. “Ivory belongs to our elephants,” said the president. “There will not be a market in it,”

He also responded to the argument that Kenya should have sold off the ivory, worth more than Ksh15bn, to raise money for other use.

“For us ivory is worthless unless it is on an elephant,” he said. “I will rather wait for the judgement of the future generations who I am sure will appreciate the action we have taken,” he said.

The president said Kenya was blessed with a rich heritage and all Kenyans had a duty to preserve it. He added that Nairobi National Park would be opened for free to those aged 17 years and under so they could witness the burning ivory.

Deputy President Ruto said the burning signified Kenya’s commitment to preserve its heritage.

“Today marks a historic moment as we send the strongest message ever to poachers, traders and purchasers of ivory and rhino that their trade is worthless and valueless and evil,” said Ruto.

Chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Service Richard Leakey called on other countries to take a strong stand against the ivory trade. He added that countries that are hoarding ivory, with an argument that they have removed their illegal stocks from circulation, are wrong.

“They should be shamed out of their position,” said Leakey. “There is no justification for speculation in ivory.”

Representatives from the US and France read messages from presidents Obama and Hollande expressing their support for Kenya’s position on the protection of wildlife and the environment.

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