NAIROBI (AA) – Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday set fire to 15 tons of elephant tusk in a symbolic measure meant to deter illegal poaching.
“As part of Kenya’s continued policy of putting ivory beyond economic use – and consistent with international norms regarding the disposal of seized contraband – today I will burn 15 tons of ivory at this historic site in Nairobi National Park,” Kenyatta said at a ceremony marking World Wildlife Day.
He said the 15-ton pile of elephant tusks was only part of that seized from poachers between 2010 and 2015. He refrained from saying, however, how much ivory remained.
Kenyatta went on to vow to destroy all of Kenya’s ivory stockpiles this year.
“Our commitment to saving our great species, especially the elephant and the rhino, remains as strong as ever,” he asserted.
“We are committed to combating the menace robustly and persistently until we dismantle the entire vile [illicit poaching] economy,” he added.
According to the Kenya Wildlife Services, 164 elephants and 53 rhinos were killed in the country by poachers last year.
Kenyatta said elephant and rhino poaching were driven by the demand for ivory and rhino horn on international markets, particularly in China and other far eastern countries.
He called for concerted local and international efforts to destroy the illicit economies that are sustained by the sale of ivory taken from endangered wildlife species.
“Over the past three years, a number of countries have destroyed contraband elephant ivory and rhino horn. I commend these international partners for their solidarity and commitment,” Kenyatta said.
According to a UN factsheet, poached African ivory commands a street value in Asia of between $165 million and $188 million per year.
It put the number of elephants killed in Africa annually at between 20,000 and 25,000 from a total population of between 420,000 and 650,000 elephants.
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