, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 29 – Eleven towering piles of ivory rise above the savannah grasslands of Nairobi National Park, ready to be burned Saturday in a symbolic grand gesture against the trade threatening elephants with extinction.
It will be the largest ever burn of ivory, with the 105 tonnes, representing thousands of dead elephants, seven times larger than any destroyed before.
This is no simple bonfire – but there is one fundamental problem.
“Ivory doesn’t burn,” said Robin Hollister, the pyrotechnic expert responsible for the fires. “If you try to burn it with a match or by throwing it into a fire, it won’t ignite.”
A short distance away, thousands of litres of a mixture of diesel and kerosene lie in a tank, waiting to be injected with pressurised air though steel pipes buried in the ground leading into the heart of the pyramids.
Hollister has helped organise all the cremations staged by Kenya since the first burn in 1989.
A former engineer who then worked creating special effects for films, he was recruited by the famous palaeoanthropologist Richard Leakey, head of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).