Each year, more than 30,000 elephants are slaughtered by poachers just for their ivory tusks. These animals are being driven toward extinction because of these tusks, which serve no purpose except to be turned into purely decorative knickknacks. In an effort to end this brutal practice, wildlife authorities in Kenya are going to burn 105 tons of ivory — the largest burn in history.
While some ivory tusks are given to museums or are used for scientific research, officials need to ensure that the rest of the ivory can never be made available to poachers by destroying it. By eliminating the supply, they can help to end the trade.
Wildlife conservation groups like WildAid are celebrating this landmark ivory burn, scheduled to take place on April 30.
"It's a simple yet incredibly powerful message to the world that it's time to end the bloody ivory trade. We only get one shot at ending this crisis and saving elephants," WildAid founder and Executive Director Peter Knights told A Plus.
In the summer of 2015, American wildlife officials were celebrated when they crushed one ton of ivory products in the middle of Times Square. What this display accomplished by taking place in such a public forum, the burn in Kenya will achieve in sheer volume.
The ivory that will be burned includes tusks that were confiscated from poachers as well as from elephants who died of natural causes.
Andrew Wegst / WildAid
"We hope that this is the year of the elephant, [the year that] markets close in China, Hong Kong, and the U.S., and that countries like Kenya crack down on wildlife crime so that more elephants are born in 2016 than killed by poachers," Knights explained.
According to Knights, the easiest thing that people can do to help the effort to end the wildlife trade is to call attention to it by posting on social media and encouraging their local lawmakers to take a stand against it.
"In our work in Asia over the past decade, we've found that it's not that people don't care, it's often that they're just unaware," he stated. "As more people know about the poaching crisis and the effect the ivory trade has on elephants, fewer people are willing to buy ivory products."
In addition to decimating elephant populations, the ivory trade threatens the lives of park rangers who work to protect the animals. Rangers are often killed by poachers who will stop at nothing to collect the massive paycheck that comes with the illegal ivory.
Ivory is valued at about $1,000 per pound, with a pair of tusks weighing about 250 pounds. This weekend's burn will prevent over $200 million in ivory from entering the illegal wildlife trade.
For the elephants, however, ivory is priceless.
Coverage of the ivory burn will occur on WildAid's Twitter account. The burn will begin at 8 a.m. EDT on Saturday, April 30.
In the meantime, join the herd and add your name to the list of people who oppose this cruel and destructive practice.
Cover image: Shutterstock.