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ashes to ashes

The world's biggest ivory bonfire is happening right now

An estimated $100m worth of illegal ivory is being torched.

ELEVEN GIANT PYRES of tusks were set alight today as Kenya torched its vast ivory stockpile in a grand gesture aimed at shocking the world into stopping the slaughter of elephants.

Huge white clouds of smoke spiralled into the sky as the flames took hold, fuelled by thousands of litres of diesel and kerosene injected through steel pipes.

Lighting the fire in Nairobi’s national park, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta demanded a total ban on trade in ivory to end the “murderous” trafficking and prevent the extinction of elephants in the wild.

Kenya Ivory Burning AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

“The height of the pile of ivory before us marks the strength of our resolve,” Kenyatta said, before thrusting a burning torch onto the ivory.

No-one, and I repeat no-one, has any business in trading in ivory, for this trade means death of our elephants and death of our natural heritage.

The tusks are expected to burn for days.

Kenyatta on Friday led a summit of African heads of state and conservationists pushing for a total ban.

“We will not be the Africans who stood by as we lost our elephants,” he told the meeting in a keynote address.

Kenya Ivory Burning More than 105 tonnes is being burned. AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

The bonfires are the largest-ever torching of ivory, containing 105 tonnes from thousands of dead elephants, seven times bigger than any stockpile burned before.

Another 1.35 tonnes of rhino horn are also being burned, representing the killing of around 340 of the endangered animals.

‘Evil commodity’

President Ali Bongo from Gabon, who lit one of the pyres, spoke of the “massacre” of forest elephants in central Africa, and said he backed moves to stop the sale of all ivory.

“Unless we take action now we risk losing this magnificent animal,” Bongo said at the ceremony, telling poachers he was “going to put you out of business, so the best thing you can do is to go into retirement now”.

Africa is home to between 450,000 to 500,000 elephants, but more than 30,000 are killed every year on the continent to satisfy demand for ivory in Asia, where raw tusks sell for around €800 per kg.

Kenya Ivory Burning AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

The pyres contained some 16,000 tusks and pieces of ivory.

Kenya has a long history of ivory burnings, spearheading a wider movement of public demonstrations across the world, but nothing on this scale before.

On the black market, such a quantity of ivory could sell for over $100 million, and the rhino horn could raise as much as $80 million.

Rhino horn can fetch as much as $60,000 per kilo — more than gold or cocaine.

But Kenyatta dismissed those who put a cash value on the ivory.

“For us, ivory is worthless unless it is on our elephants,” Kenyatta said.

© – AFP 2016

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