Image courtesy of International Fund for Animal Welfare, Creative Commons license.
On Saturday, April 30, 2016, the President of Kenya, Mr. Kenyatta, lit a huge pyramid of elephant tusks and Rhino horn to signify that Kenya is SERIOUS about STOPPING ILLEGAL IVORY TRADE and RHINO POACHING AS WELL.
105 metric tons of ivory—or 6,000-7,000 dead elephants. 1.5 tons of Rhino horn was burnt.
Wild elephants are threatened with extinction within the decade as a result of poaching. Rhinos are on a course for extinction unless poaching is curtailed within 5-10 years. Mr. Kenyatta spelled it out: No one has any business trading in ivory. Trade equals the death of our elephants, the death of our natural heritage. Combining the burn with rhino horn made a strong statement that these animals’ body parts are worthless to humans.
Using militaristic tactics, heavily armed poachers have murdered tens of thousands of elephants across Africa. In China in particular, ivory is used to fabricate eyeglass frames, combs, statues, trinkets—and carved tusks are prized gifts of the wealthy. Rhino horn is prized in Vietnam and China as medicine despite the fact that IT HAS ZERO MEDICINAL VALUE. Horn is also favored by the wealthy as a precious gift precisely because the animal will soon be extinct.
Millions watched around the world as columns of ashy smoke rose up, and many wept as they held onto the hope that this disgraceful shame on humanity might end before the elephant and the rhino, iconic ancient species, are lost forever.
(Based in part on the report in NYT Jeffrey Gettleman April 30 2016)