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Kenya burns huge pile of ivory tusks to protest poaching

Published:Sunday | May 1, 2016 | 12:00 AM
A ranger from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) stands guard as pyres of ivory are set on fire in Nairobi National Park, Kenya, yesterday.

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP):

Kenya's president yesterday set fire to 105 tons of elephant ivory and more than one ton of rhino horn, believed to be the largest stockpile ever destroyed, in a dramatic statement by this East African country against the trade in ivory and products from endangered species.

Uhuru Kenyatta put a flame to the biggest of 11 pyres of ivory tusks and one of rhino horn on a chilly afternoon.

Overnight torrential rains had threatened to ruin the event but stopped midday leaving a mud field around the piles inside Nairobi National Park.

"A time has come when we must take a stand and the stand is clear ... . Kenya is making a statement that for us ivory is worthless unless it is on our elephants," Kenyatta said.

The stacks of tusks represent more than 8,000 elephants and some 343 rhinos slaughtered for their ivory and horns, according to the Kenya Wildlife Service.

Kenya will push for the total ban on trade in ivory at the 17th meeting of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species to be held in South Africa later this year, said Kenyatta.

The pyres were fuelled with about 20,000 litres of jet fuel and oxygen, said Robin Hollister, the event's fire master, as a thick plume of white smoke billowed over the yellow flames consuming the ivory. Hollister earlier said it's not known how long the fire will take because the burning of such a quantity is unprecedented.

Kenya decided to destroy the ivory instead of selling it for an estimated $150 million. Some critics had suggested that the money raised from the ivory sales could be used to develop Kenya and protect wildlife. But Kenyatta said that Kenya wants to make the point that ivory should not have any commercial value.