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Kenya to burn stacks of ivory in bid to protect elephants

Published 20/04/2016

Workers from the Kenya Wildlife Service carry elephant tusks from shipping containers full of ivory transported from around the country (AP)
Workers from the Kenya Wildlife Service carry elephant tusks from shipping containers full of ivory transported from around the country (AP)

Kenyan wildlife officers have started stacking 105 tons of ivory and one ton of rhino horns to make 12 towers which are to be torched at the end of the month to encourage global efforts to help stop poaching of elephants and rhinos.

Under a grey sky and amid mud from rains the night before, media and conservationists gathered to witness the unloading of 11 shipping containers full of ivory transported from stockpiles around Kenya.

Workers carried the tusks through the mud on to around 12 metal structures built specifically for burning the ivory and other confiscated endangered materials such as the skins of colobus monkeys, rhino horn, and wood from African sandalwood trees.

There is a real threat of elephants becoming extinct in the next 50 years mainly because of poaching bankrolled by the illegal trade in ivory, which is why there is need for dramatic action, said Kenya Wildlife Service director Kitili Mbathi.

Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta is due to set the pyres on fire on April 30, according to the wildlife service. Last year Mr Kenyatta lit on fire 15 tons of ivory.

Proponents of the trade in ivory say that rather than destroy it, the sale of ivory stockpiles could fund conservation efforts.

Kenya has consistently opposed the trade in ivory, saying it would encourage the poaching that has decimated the elephant and rhino populations.

"We strongly believe elephant (ivory) has more value on a living elephant than outside it because humankind can do without ivory. They can do without it, it is not medicine, they use it for bangles," said Patrick Omondi, deputy director of the Kenya Wildlife Service.

"You kill (an elephant of) seven tons to make a bangle, it is madness."

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