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Will new ivory burning help to stop the killing of elephants?

On Wednesday 20th July 2011, almost five tonnes of contraband ivory will be burned during a ceremony at Kenya Wildlife Service's Manyani Field Training School in Tsavo West National Park. The ivory is part of the June 2002 seizure that took place in Singapore. An estimated 600 elephants died to produce the 335 confiscated tusks and 41,553 hankos that will be destroyed in the pire. Hankos are seals or signature stamps used in Japan, China and Korea. The ivory was found to have primarily originated from Malawi and Zambia. ElephantVoices fully supports this move, which sends a strong signal that ivory should not be in the market.

During the 2010 Conference of the Parties (CoP15) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Doha, Qatar, ElephantVoices was among those orgaizations strongly opposing any trade in ivory. We argued that down-listing and more "one-off" sales would further stimulate the market for ivory and lead to increased killing of elephants (See Elephants, Ivory, and Trade (395.07 kB). In an important victory for elephants, CITES voted against requests from Tanzania and Zambia to down-list their elephant populations and sell their stock-piles.

ElephantVoices standpoint is that the potential global market for ivory is far greater than the amount the entire world population of elephants can supply. Any market for ivory will stimulate increased demand and, therefore, a spiraling illegal trade and further killing of elephants. We believe that the market for ivory is impossible to control and to satisfy, and that previous sales have just driven up demand, established more smuggling routes and a growing carving industry. The result of recent sales and the surrounding speculation, has stimulated demand, which is now having deadly consequences for ten thousands of elephants every year.

ElephantVoices urges governments and law enforcement agencies around the world to act forcefully to curb the current boom in illegal sales, smuggling and poaching - and we hope that the symbolic ivory burning on 20th July will inspire people and countries to work together to protect elephants.

The ivory burning is the fourth of its kind after Kenya's in 1989 (12 tonnes) and in 1991 (6,8 tonnes, see below), and in Zambia in 1992. African governments have recently been asked to join forces to fight poaching and other environmental crimes as way of protecting their economies. The ivory burning in Tsavo on 20th July is the first regional exercise of this kind. Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki will preside over the burning, which is the climax of the first-ever African Elephant Law Enforcement Day celebrations on the theme: ‘Fostering cooperation to combat elephant poaching and ivory trafficking in Africa’. The day is meant to recognise the plight of the endangered African elephant, and to celebrate its importance and appreciate challenges faced in its conservation. The burning of the ivory was a decision of the Lusaka Agreement Governing Council in line with CITES.

- Media coverage ivory burning 20th July 2011 (Google search "ivory burning, Kenya")
- Read more about ivory and poaching on Elephants killed for ivory (ElephantVoices)
- Selected links ivory and poaching (Updated list on ElephantVoices)

On 18th July 1991 - designated as Elephant Day - Kenya held her second ivory burning. It was preceded by an elaborate parade through the streets of Nairobi, demonstrations by school children and speeches by VIPs. Kenya was celebrating the result of the 1989 burning, the ban on ivory trade and the Appendix I listing; elephant poaching was already way down.

As then Elephant Program head ElephantVoices' Joyce Poole organized the parade and the ivory burning on behalf of Kenya Wildlife Service. She has fond memories of this special day. This year's burning comes at a time when poaching is spiraling out of control. We are extremely disturbed by the current boom in illegal trade and poaching.
(All photos ElephantVoices)