VIDEO: Bearing witness to a historic ivory burn reinforces a resolve

As director of IFAW’s education program, I don’t usually attend ivory crushes or burns.

In fact, I had no idea when we arrived off our delayed flight (36 hours after we departed Boston) and went straight to our planned World Wildlife Day activities that we would bear witness to such a momentous event.

So after the speeches—where the President of Kenya said “what is being done to protect wildlife is little compared with the cumulative threats” and Mette Løyche Wilkie Director, Division of Environmental Policy Implementation at the UNEP reiterated that “global environmental crime has a value that is double the GDP of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda combined”— we walked out to the field where they lit a huge pile of ivory on fire.

RELATED: Kenya’s World Wildlife Day ivory burn carries on tradition, further builds momentum

I knew this was an impressive feat, like that of the US crush a year and a half ago or the other half dozen ivory destruction events since.

I thought I would be more excited, but instead, I just felt sad. Even though our education curricula don’t shy away from the elephant poaching epidemic, it still struck me that moment that these were all once elephants.

Media folk were disappointed that there weren’t more dramatic flames – just so much dark, black smoke. We—the IFAW staff in attendance—had our picture taken as the ivory was burning; it didn’t feel right to pose or smile.

IFAW’s presence at the event did not go unnoticed. I was proud that of the 24 informational stations the President of Kenya walked past before the burn, IFAW’s was one of only three at which he actually stopped.

He had quite a lengthy discussion with East Africa Regional Director James Isiche about what IFAW was doing to help Kenya combat wildlife crime and protect wildlife.

Afterwards, we sat down to dinner. Those in the East Africa office are all so excited about integrating relevant educational programs into our Amboseli project. And that made me feel better.

There really is something I can do in my role to help stop that pile of ivory from growing tall again.

It was not lost on me that while we talked, the fire still burned and would for five more days under 24-hour guard, until the tusks were reduced to ashes.


Read more about IFAW efforts to help protect Africa's elephants at our campaign page.


Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Pauline Verheij, Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Country Representative, Germany
Country Representative, Germany
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy