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Kenya Stages World's Largest Ivory and Tusks Burning to Highlight Poaching Crisis in Africa

May 02, 2016 06:51 AM EDT
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Thousands of tusks from illegally killed elephants and rhinos will be set in flames in Nairobi National Park to highlight the plight of the world's iconic endangered species.

"For the past week, several dozen men have circled a site in Nairobi National Park, unloading elephant tusks from shipping containers -- many of them so big it takes two men to carry one tusk -- and building them into towers of ivory up to 10 feet tall and 20 feet across," CNN reports

History dubs it as the biggest destruction of wildlife goods and the last-ditch effort to control a poaching trade that kills 35,000 elephants and thousands of Rhinos a year.

Burning confiscated ivory is the greatest symbol, pronouncing the country's struggle to save the elephants from extinction. By doing so, illegal trade in the black markets where raw tusks sell for around $1,000 per kilo will be stomped out.

In an interview with CNN, Wildlife trade expert Esmond Bradley Martin said the illicit wildlife goods would be worth more than $172 million; that's 105 tonnes of elephant ivory and 1.5 tonnes of rhino horn.

Kenya's president Uhuru Kenyatta made a speech at the inaugural Giant Club Summit held Friday, affirming a total ban on trade in ivory to prevent the extinction of elephants in the wild.

"To lose our elephants would be to lose a key part of the heritage that we hold in trust. Quite simply, we will not allow it," his statement read.

Savetherhino.org said by the end of 2015, the number of African rhinos killed by poachers had increased for the sixth year in a row. Meanwhile, it is estimated up to 36,000 elephants are killed annually, that's one life lost every 15 minutes.

African governments are fighting the illegal trade in wildlife goods, but they have long puzzled over what to do with confiscated ivory and horn.

The Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) allows for the trade of ivory under certain circumstances, such as those ivory and horn that has been confiscated from illegal poachers.

In 2008, stockpiled ivory gathered in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana was auctioned. A total of $15 million generated from the bidding has been used for elephant conservation initiatives.

Kenya first burned ivory in 1989, under president Daniel Arap Moi. This Saturday's ivory burn is Kenya's fourth, and the largest one in history by a large margin.

The Guardian reports the ceremonial burningwill be attended by Kenya's president, Uhuru Kenyatta, heads of state including Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, high-ranking United Nations and US officials, and charities.

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