Kenya has said it will torch its vast stockpile of ivory at a star-studded summit to include Hollywood celebrities, presidents and business leaders against “poaching and illegal trade in ivory.”
The fire will be eight times the size of any ivory stockpile destroyed so far.
“Kenya plans to use the occasion to torch as many as 120 tonnes of ivory, the largest stockpile of ivory ever destroyed by any country, as proof of our commitment to zero tolerance for poaching and illegal ivory trade, “ presidential spokesman Manoah Esipisu told reporters.
Others Kenya expects to attend include conservation icon and BBC legend David Attenborough, British musician Elton John, as well as former basketball star Yao Ming, who has led campaigns in his homeland of China to raise awareness of the damage elephant poaching causes.
President Uhuru Kenyatta set fire in March 2015 to a giant pile of 15 tonnes of elephant ivory, which conservationists said then was the largest ever burned in Africa.
Then, the pile of tusks burned made a dramatic three-metre (10-foot) tall pyre of tusks with huge flames, burning for several days until the ivory turned to ash.
At the time, Kenyatta said he set fire to ivory as a message because he wanted “future generations of Kenyans, Africans and the entire world to experience the majesty and beauty of these magnificent beasts.”
The promised destruction of the remaining stockpile is now slated for April 29 and 30.
Veteran conservationist Richard Leakey, chairman of the government’s Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), has championed the destruction of seized ivory.
Leakey said the average weight of an elephant’s pair of tusks was around 36 kilos, meaning the stockpile represents the death of around 4,000 animals.
But other conservationists put a tusk’s weight to be now far lower, meaning the stockpile could represent the deaths of even double that number.
The ivory includes tusks seized from poachers and from animals who died naturally.
The campaign is being organized by billionaire Russian publisher Evgeny Lebedev, owner of Britain’s Independent and Evening Standard newspapers.
Leakey, a world famous paleontologist, is in talks to make a film of his life, made by Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie.
Speaking late last year, Leakey refused to confirm rumours Brad Pitt was tipped to play him in the film.
Ivory is sought out for jewellery and decorative objects and much of it is smuggled to China, where many increasingly wealthy shoppers are buying ivory trinkets as a sign of financial success.
Kenya’s stockpile, if illegally sold on the black market at current prices, could be worth some $270 million (over 251 million euros), but conservationists say sale of ivory only serves to fuel further poaching.
It is estimated that more than 30,000 elephants are killed for their tusks every year.
The international ivory trade was banned in 1989 but one-off sales of ivory stockpiles have since been permitted and trade in old ivory is also allowed, giving criminal smugglers cover for their illegal trade. – AFP.