Changing Planet

WCS Praises Kenya for Massive Elephant Ivory and Rhino Horn Burn Scheduled for Saturday, April 30

By Cristián Samper

When the Kenya burn is over and the smoke clears, WCS is hopeful the world will be even more galvanized in its resolve to end the trafficking crisis that is wiping out Africa’s mighty elephants and rhinos.

Kenya’s massive ivory and rhino horn burn sends a clear message that Kenya has zero tolerance for the violence and corruption annihilating elephants and rhinos, iconic species that help symbolize Africa’s wonderful natural heritage.

In 1989, Kenya held the first public ivory destruction event. Since then, the world has witnessed 28 ivory crushes and burns conducted by 21 nations.

WCS believes this largest-ever burn is emblematic of the global groundswell of support to once and for all end the commercial trade in ivory and rhino horn.

Infographic detailing recent ivory crushes and burns. Credit: ©WCS

This 100-tonne destruction of elephant ivory shows Kenya’s commitment to the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI) which commits a nation to closing domestic ivory markets, agreeing to put all stockpiles of ivory beyond economic use, and to addressing the elephant crisis through full and timely implementation of the African Elephant Action Plan (AEAP) that was agreed by all range States in 2010.

One of the most important aspects of the EPI is its emphasis on creating a collective voice – that all the EPI countries speak as one. It is important to acknowledge that the Kenyan government is one of eleven African countries that are signatories to the EPI. The EPI brings together African elephant range states, non-range states, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, private sector and private citizens to work in partnership to protect elephants and to stop the illegal ivory trade. WCS is pleased to be a member of the EPI.

WCS is working to assist elephant range states across Africa to develop National Elephant Action Plans that provide the country-level detail needed to implement the AEAP. WCS is proud to be helping Kenya update its National Elephant Action Plan through an innovative partnership with the Disney Foundation. Through this partnership, we are bringing more essential resources to support plan implementation.

Guard stands watch over one of 11 pyres of ivory in Nairobi National Park. A total of 105 tons of ivory will be burned tomorrow, April 30th. Credit: Paul Hilton for WCS
Guard stands watch over one of 11 pyres of ivory in Nairobi National Park. A total of 105 tons of ivory will be burned tomorrow, April 30th. Credit: Paul Hilton for WCS

In addition to speaking with a collective voice, the EPI also helps promote learning and sharing of best practices in elephant conservation. For example, WCS recently brought forest elephant survey methods used in Central Africa to help Kenya learn how to survey their savannah elephants that live in Kenya’s forests. Before this survey, elephant population numbers in Kenya only counted elephants that were seen from aerial surveys, and the elephants in the forest technically did not count. We look forward to continue working with the Kenya Wildlife Service to assist in fully implementing the plan to protect its elephants and address the illegal wildlife trade.

Less than a year ago, WCS stood with partners in Times Square, New York – known as the ‘crossroads of the world’ – to crush illegally traded ivory that had been confiscated after making its way to U.S. shores. “Today, WCS is proud to say that the U.S. is poised to implement a federal ban on trading in ivory, while several U.S. states have already passed local ivory trade bans.

The June 2015 crush in Times Square in New York City was just one of many ivory destruction events that have taken place since 1989 across the globe. Credit: Madeleine Thompson ©WCS
The June 2015 crush in Times Square in New York City was just one of many ivory destruction events that have taken place since 1989 across the globe. Credit: Madeleine Thompson ©WCS

Kenya, Gabon, and other African governments have also submitted important documents to be discussed at this September’s global meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species – including a call for all governments to close their domestic ivory markets. WCS looks forward to working with governments around the world to include this ivory destruction in Kenya as part of that global effort to, once and for all, put an end to the ivory trade.

Ivory burns and crushes are not merely symbolic gestures – they are tangible milestones that show a nation is serious about combating trafficking in ivory by unequivocally removing this ivory from any chance of being traded. This directly supports our efforts to end the killing of elephants for the ivory trade.

Reversing the decline of elephants in Kenya, as well as the rest of Africa, will not be easy. But collectively we have no choice but to continue our efforts. If we are going to be successful, we must all work together and build strong partnerships to have the greatest impact. Doing so will require ‘on-the-ground’ anti-poaching, anti-trafficking, and other enforcement work including deterrent penalties for wildlife crimes, combating corruption, reducing consumer demand for ivory by effecting behavioral change, working to protect elephant habitat and reduce human–elephant conflict, and ensuring that in local communities rights and aspirations are properly represented.

The world community must come together to stop the killing, stop the trafficking, and stop the demand Together, it is time to stand up and declare that ivory trade is over.

Cristián Samper is President and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society. He also serves on the US Federal Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking. @CristianSamper

WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.
  • Michael Westad

    A publicity stunt that will only drive up the cost of Ivory. How does making a luxury item less available drive down the cost? It would be better to sell all the ivory and lower the market value and thus lower the profit and rarity.

  • Laurie

    Would it not be better, environmentally speaking, to crush the ivory to powder and bury it?

  • Darrell Brock

    Rare is more valuable. Rhino Horn is valuable in China, one billion people and the largest number of billionaires needing Rhino Horn.

  • usha

    Why not build a museum? Use the ivory to design and craft all those animals that were lost to poaching and build a museum to honor them. Would it not be educational? I can’t say it is a waste to burn, but we as a society can certainly honor the animals.

  • usha

    Burning – what will it serve? Instead, would it not be honorable to construct a museum for the lives poached? Use the ivory to recreate those animals. It will be educational in the long run, we can see the beauty of those poor helpless animals.

  • Avi

    I will advise to sell and use the money to fund prorection for wild life and not just burn the money.

  • Blake

    Someone is forgetting about supply and demand. Flood the market with that ivory and people won’t be killing elephants and rhinos for it. Burning ivory is not the answer.

  • noelle

    Hmm, so many comments here that sound eerily familiar to pro-hunting lobbying sound bite arguments. Just like the so called “argument between scientists” on climate change (“is it man made?”, and my very favorite pro-fossil fuel “scientists,” “maybe this increase in CO2 in the air that is completely changing our atmosphere is actually good for us”), the actual biologists and conservationists who have been on the ground and fighting the ivory trade for decades, some of whom even bought into the whole “if we allow open hunting and legal trade on ivory, the poaching will stop,” and after decades of trying to accommodate this ludicrous profit-driven idea the stats were bore out the truth that it only increased the demand for ivory in the Asian markets. The ONLY way to stop the extinction of elephants and rhinos at this point is to finally hammer home the point that all ivory is worthless and thus whenever the Kenyan government seizes it then it will absolutely be taken of of circulation in one way or another to drive that point home. It is rather appalling to see so many comments here by people who still don’t get it and apply a supply and demand free market driven argument to the very real rapidly oncoming possibility of the extinction of the African elephant and the rhino. Wow. This is a conversation that many people have been having for over 3 decades and we have heard and even heeded the “allow legal ivory to flourish” argument to no avail. Now the stakes are so much higher than they were in the 80s. Just because some people are now finally waking up to the problem does not mean the pro-hunting and legal ivory ideas have not been tried only to dismal results. The bottom line is that Kenya is one of the few African countries that is doing this thing right and making a huge deal that ivory is so unvaluable unless it is still on a still living and thriving elephant that they did exactly what needed to be done in this huge burn.

  • .

    do the kenyans not understand basic economics or how supply & demand works? they just increased demand by decreasing supply. what they should have burned were the POACHERS ! burn them if they pull a tusk out of an elephant to leave that poor animal lingering for hours in the hot sun until it dies. seriously… at least make the punishment more than just a “fine”. put them in jail for at least ten years.

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