Last Wednesday, Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki set fire to more than five tonnes of elephant ivory to bring attention to the problem of poaching. About 335 ivory tusks and 41,000 trinkets worth about $16,290,000 ( £10 million) were burned. It had been confiscated by officials in Singapore in 2002 and found to be from Zambia and Malawai, says the Guardian.
Said Kibaki at a rural Kenya Wildlife Service training facility:
“Through the disposal of contraband ivory, we seek to formally demonstrate to the world our determination to eliminate all forms of illegal trade in ivory. We must all appreciate the negative effects of illegal trade to our national economies. We cannot afford to sit back and allow criminal networks to destroy our common future.”
Africa had about 1.3 million elephants in the 1970s but now has only about 500,000. Kenya currently has about 37,000, “up from the 16,000 it had at the height of the crisis in 1989 but far below the country’s peak.”
In 1989, Kenyan officials first set fire to huge store of ivory, as a wake-up call about the crisis of the declining elephant population. Elephants numbers have increased, but activists fear another crisis as the middle class in China grows and “seeks to satisfy its appetite for ivory,” just as the growing Chinese middle class’s taste for shark’s fin soup has led to rising demand for sharks, an endangered species. A global ban on ivory was implemented in 1989 and temporarily halted the elephants’ decline, but its numbers are again in danger due to the “booming demand” for ivory in Asia and more conflicts between humans and elephants as the former encroach on the animals’ land.
The Lusaka Agreement Task Force, a group of seven African countries working to preserve its wildlife and plants, was behind the burning of the ivory.
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