MANYANI, Jul 20 – President Mwai Kibaki on Wednesday ignited five tonnes of ivory stockpiled in the country since being seized in Singapore nearly a decade ago.
Using a long stick with a ball of fuel-doused cloth at the end, Kibaki lit the tall pyre of 4.967 tonnes of elephant tusks smuggled from Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia and intercepted in Singapore in 2002.
“We must all appreciate the negative effects of illegal trade to our national economies,” President Kibaki said. “We cannot afford to sit back and allow criminal networks to destroy our common future.”
“Through the burning of contraband ivory, therefore, we are sending a clear message to poachers and illegal traders in wildlife about our collective resolve to fight this crime in our region and beyond,” he added.
Some 335 tusks and 42,553 ivory carvings went up in smoke at the Manyani wildlife rangers training institution in eastern Kenya.
The destruction followed an agreement reached by Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya in May in Nairobi under the Lusaka Agreement Task Force.
The task force is charged with implementing the 1992 Lusaka Agreement designed to help African law enforcement agencies tackle wildlife smuggling.
Wednesday’s burning was the first involving regional countries, but the third in Africa.
Kenya in 1989 torched 12 tonnes of ivory, three years later Zambia also burnt a stockpile of smuggled tusks.
Africa is home to 472,269 elephants whose survival is threatened by poaching and illegal trade in game trophy as is rising population causing wildlife habitat loss.
The site of the Wednesday’s ivory burning also bore symbolism. The national wildlife rangers institution is in the Tsavo National Park, which is Kenya’s leading elephant sanctuary.
A census done earlier this year in the Tsavo ecosystem counted a total of 12,572 elephants.
Wildlife officials said a monument will be erected at the burning site.