Published On: Thu, Apr 28th, 2016

Kenya Burns 5% of the World’s Ivory Stock pile – Jury is out whether this is a good move


Kenya will burn an estimated 5 percent of the world’s ivory on April 30 in a fiery protest against the global trade in elephant tusks, while trimming back a stockpile accumulated over past decades to only 32 tons, the head of the nation’s wildlife authority said.

The African elephant, the world’s largest land mammal, faces extinction as poaching fueled by demand for illicit ivory surges in Asian markets. There are only 470,000 of the jumbos left in the wild in 37 countries on the continent, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature.

“We want to show the world that there shouldn’t be any intrinsic value in ivory,” Kenya Wildlife Services Director-General Kitili Mbathi told reporters in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Between 20,000 to 33,000 elephants are poached every year in Africa, Esmond Bradley Martin, a conservationist investigating ivory and rhino horn smuggling, said.

In Kenya, the elephant population has more than doubled to 38,000 from about 16,000 nearly three decades ago, according to Mbathi. The East African nation famed for wildlife safaris instituted anti-poaching measures in the 1980s when rampant killing of pachyderms threatened their numbers.

This weekend’s torching of 105 metric tons will be Kenya’s fourth. In 1989, former President Daniel arap Moi set fire to about 13 tons to persuade the world to ban the buying and selling of tusks. His successors, Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta, destroyed a total of 20 tons of tusks and rhino horn in 2009 and 2015.

The East African nation wants ivory to be “a dirty product that most people wouldn’t want to be associated with,” Mbathi said.

Wise Move?

Kenya will keep seven tons of tusks — some weighing more than 50 kilograms — for research. Another 25 tons are stuck in litigation or being held as evidence in pending cases, Mbathi said.

“This is not about burning ivory, it’s about preserving elephants,” said Paula Kahumbu, chief executive at conservation group Wildlife Direct. “With the scourge in corruption, ivory trafficking is difficult to control. People think that ivory trafficking is instituted at high level, but there is even low level corruption from policemen to court clerks to port workers, which facilitates this.”

Not all conservationists support Kenya’s move to burn its ivory cache.

Setting the stock aflame won’t address the threat of surging poaching and could stoke a rise in prices of the commodity, according to Mike Norton-Griffiths, a Kenyan ecologist.

“Kenya is making a mistake, it’s an unwise move,” he said in an interview. “Taking such a huge resource completely off the market may in turn back the drop in prices.”

Rather than destroying their ivory and demonizing consumers in Asia, African governments opposed to the trade should instead engage with authorities in nations such as China to regulate the buying and selling of tusks, he said, while advocating for controlled hunting, which works better in protecting wildlife.

“Sit down with consumers and make peace,” Norton-Griffiths said. “We all want the same thing. China is a very good friend of Africa and we are having this stupid spat over elephants.”

Source; Bloomberg

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Kenya Burns 5% of the World’s Ivory Stock pile – Jury is out whether this is a good move
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