Turned to Ashes – Kenya’s Largest Ivory Burn (Highlights 2016)

Eleven giant pyres of tusks (more than 8000 elephants), rhino horn (from 300 rhinos), illegal hides of wild animals and illegally logged timber were set ablaze in Kenya’s Nairobi National Park on 30th April, 2016. This was a ‘funeral’ for all the wild life illegally poached due to an unending surge of ignorance, greed and corruption.

Ivory Stock Piles
 Ivory Stockpiles. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters


Kenya first destroyed ivory in 1989 by the then President Daniel Arap Moi where 13 tons of ivory were burnt. Over time, several ivory destruction measures have occurred.

Africa (a continent) is home to between 450,000 – 500,000 elephants. Sadly more than 30,000 elephants are poached every year for their tusks which is driven mainly by the Asian and US markets. Rhinos are extinct in most African countries with only thousands left, not forgetting to mention the three remaining Northern rhinos currently facing extinction.

Why does Kenya Burn Ivory?

To send a message to the entire globe; ivory trafficker, ivory black market, ivory kingpins and poachers a like that Kenya is serious about ending the illegal ivory and rhino horn trade which is threatening to drive wild elephants and rhinos to extinction.

To tell the world, only elephant should wear ivory and a live elephant is worth more alive than a dead one. Rhino horn is also not medicine and is made of keratin like our own finger nails and hair.

To show the world how precious the elephant and all other wild animals are. None should be killed just to benefit a small number of people in our society.

Two days after the burn early morning.
Two days after the burn early morning. Photo by Mia Collis

What next?

Curb the demand of illegal ivory trade. Many illegal ivory consumers have no idea how ivory or horn is detached from an elephant or rhino respectively and have long assumed no killing is involved in the process. Showcasing pictures and information on what happens for one to wear the jewelry, have a curved piece made from ivory or use rhino horn as ‘Chinese medicine’, will go a long way in reducing the demand.

Demonstrate to the world the value of a live elephant not only through tourism but also the effects a wild animal has on African communities and the cultural aspect of these animals in most African ethnic groups.

The importance of an elephant as an iconic keystone species and all other wild animal and plant species and the role they play in our ecosystem should be imparted from an early age to instill value, admiration, prestige and a protective instinct towards them.

Stringent laws towards wildlife poaching through support from government bodies will ensure progress in eliminating poaching. Government should empower citizens to participate in the fight against wildlife crime by encouraging them to act. A wildlife reporting hotline ought to be created.

Important links
Why it makes sense to burn ivory stockpiles.

Ivory kingpin Feisal Mohamed Ali was sentenced on 22 July 2016 to 20 years in jail after he was found guilty of possessing ivory worth 44 million shillings (US $440,000). After 2 years of never ending court cases since his warrant for arrest, justice for elephants was finally achieved. This being just the beginning, continued efforts will not suffice as poachers and traffickers are kept on their toes.

China is set to close its ivory factories.



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