Kenyan wildlife authorities Monday started moving at least 105 tons of ivory and one ton of rhino horn in preparation for the torching of the items at the end of the month to discourage ivory and rhino-horn trade believed to be fuelling poaching of elephants and rhinos.
In a musty basement strong-room behind two sets of heavy steel doors, workers pulled elephant tusks from piles that nearly reach the ceiling. Each one is carefully logged and matched against previous photos of the tusk, pulled up on a computer tablet. The workers carry the ivory outside with the numbers of tusks being counted at each stage by wildlife rangers – a process expected to go on for days.
The stockpile is from elephants and rhinos killed in conflict with humans, from problem-animal control, those that died naturally or were killed by poachers, Kenya Wildlife Service deputy director Patrick Omondi.
The mass destruction is timed to coincide with an April 28-30 summit on protection of elephants in Kenya.
A global ban on the ivory trade in 1989 briefly halted the elephants' demise. But the ban's initial success was undermined by booming Asian economies and increasing demand for land. Africa had 1.3 million elephants in the 1970s but has only 500,000 today.
The elephant populations in Tanzania, Gabon, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Mozambique, Republic of the Congo and Democratic Republic of the Congo are the worst hit by poaching. The years 2011, 2012 and 2013 witnessed the highest levels of poaching since a poaching crisis in the 1980s, Kenya's Wildlife Service has said.
Save The Elephants said in 2014 that 100,000 elephants were killed in Africa between 2010-12. Last year, China imposed a one-year ban on ivory imports amid criticism that its citizens' huge appetite for ivory threatens the existence of Africa's elephants.