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

IFAW has been instrumental in the planning and execution of some of these burns, and witness to others.Traces of ashes of now three historic ivory burns will be forever mixed with the ancient soil at Nairobi National Park’s ‘ivory burning’ site.

On this sacred spot where Hon. Mwai Kibaki and Hon. Daniel Moi destroyed 5 tonnes in 2011 and 12 tonnes in 1989 respectively, President of the Republic of Kenya, His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, yesterday set fire to 15 tonnes of ivory from elephants slaughtered for their tusks.

The occasion? This year’s World Wildlife Day, started by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which also happens to be Wangari Maathai Day, established to honor the memory of the Nobel Peace Laureate and her contribution to conservation and Africa Environment Day.

Beyond the day’s symbolism, this act continues a momentum of which the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is proud to be a part.

RELATED: World Wildlife Day, an occasion to denounce wildlife crime

Numerous countries, including Gabon (2012), the Philippines (2013), the United States (2013), mainland China (2014), Belgium (2014), France (2014) and China’s Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong (2014) and Kenya (2015), have destroyed either their entire stockpiles or portions thereof within the past three years; IFAW has been instrumental in the planning and execution of some of them, and witness to others.

The destruction of this ivory stock pile comes at a time when poaching of elephants to supply the illegal ivory trade has reached epidemic proportions. Since the Gabon destruction event, it is estimated that more than 100,000 elephants have been killed across Africa.

Seizures of illegal ivory on a global level continue to increase: 24.3 tonnes in 2011, 30 tonnes in 2012 and 41.5 tonnes in 2013. Most illegal ivory is destined for Asia, in particular China, where it has soared in value as an investment vehicle and is coveted as “white gold.”

The illegal wildlife trade generates an estimated US$19-billion a year, ranking fourth on the list of the most lucrative illegal activities in the world behind drugs, counterfeiting and human trafficking.

IFAW addresses all aspects of the illegal ivory trade.

We help fund rangers and train game scouts in their quest to stop poachers from killing elephants and rhinos, and recently have become part of a partnership to analyze data that helps authorities track suspected criminals and deploy forces before a poaching takes place.

As part of a worldwide capacity building initiative IFAW trains law enforcement officers in wildlife trafficking prevention in several countries throughout Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania, and the Caribbean.

Our demand reduction efforts in China are world renowned. In addition to working with government to ban wildlife products from auctions and online platforms, we have recently launched a campaign featuring more than a dozen key opinion leaders speaking out on ivory trade in China and globally.

The march against ivory trade and the slaughtering of elephants continues, and we’re proud that the government of Kenya has made this all-important symbolic gesture.

Congratulations to H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta for pledging to destroy Kenya’s entire ivory stockpile so it will never be available for future sale.

--JI

Learn more about IFAW efforts to protect the world's last wild elephants.

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
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