May 1, 2016
Kenya Burns 105 Tons Of Ivory And Rhino Horns - Watch A $172M Bonfire Meant To End Poaching

Kenya set ablaze over 100 tons of elephant tusks (ivory), rhino horns and other mercilessly acquired animal parts through rampant poaching. With a street value exceeding $170 million, it was one of the costliest bonfires mankind has ever witnessed. The huge pyre was meant to send a strong message to poachers.

With thousands gathered to watch the spectacle, Uhuru Kenyatta, the president of Kenya, bent over to light a tray of fuel that went into the heart of a massive tower of ivory. Drenched in fuel, over 11 white pyres slowly engulfed in flames and thick smoke obscured the sky.

As the neatly assembled white pyres began burning, they quickly turned into a black smoldering mess. The bonfire was a direct message and warning to poachers: The killing of animals for their parts has got to stop. The illegal ivory trade has threatened to push wild elephants to extinction, but Kenya won't allow the hunters to wipe out the natural heritage of the country, said Mr. Kenyatta,
"No one, and I repeat, no one, has any business in trading in ivory, for this trade means death — the death of our elephants and the death of our natural heritage."
By the time the 11 pyres turn to ash, Kenya would have destroyed 105 tons of elephant ivory and 1.35 tons of rhino horn. These tusks and horns once adorned about 6,500 to 7,000 elephants and some 450 rhinos. Among the ivory and horns were other animal parts, like exotic animal skins, such as those from the African native and vulnerable colobus monkey as well as other products that include sandalwood and medicinal bark, Inquisitr previously reported.

Thousands of these innocent creatures were mercilessly butchered for their parts, which are in high demand in Asian countries. A huge component of ivory is processed in ornaments. After being smuggled out of Africa, the ivory heads to China, where it is processed into eyeglass frames, combs, statuettes, and other trinkets. Incidentally, a majority of these animal parts are used in medicinal preparations. It is believed that these parts can permanently cure life threatening diseases, supply supernatural strength, or improve sexual health.

But, President Kenyatta had made it absolutely clear that animal parts like ivory are completely useless, unless it is on the animal.

"For us, ivory is worthless unless it is on our elephants."
President Kenyatta's sentiment is an echo of such a sad, but essential gesture to dissuade the poachers from killing large animals for their parts. A similar bonfire, but on a much smaller scale, was setup in 1989. Since then, many countries that have a huge problem with poachers, have regularly burnt the products to send a clear message to poachers. According to WWF, about 20 such bonfires, of varying intensities, have taken place in the past 27 years in countries ranging from the U.S. to China, Gabon to the Philippines. However, Kenya's bonfire is by far the largest in history, reports National Geographic.
It is a horrifying crisis that many African countries have been dealing with for many decades. Despite burning more than 105 tons, the ivory in the pyres represents just 5 percent of what is currently held in government stockpiles across Africa.

Driven primarily by continually rising demand in Asia, poachers have been actively arming themselves with lethal weaponry. These poachers use military tactics and evade capture. These ruthless killers have so far wiped out tens of thousands of elephants across Africa, and if left unchecked, could easily drive the elephants into extinction within the next 5 to 10years.

Despite Kenya experiencing heavy rains, the ivory pyres went up in smoke pretty quickly, reported New York Times. Is burning hundreds of tons of ivory, rhino horns and other animal parts the right way to put an end to poaching?

[Photo by Carl de Souza/Getty Images]