Kenya’s ivory burn
We saw the smoke first. The billowing black clouds hanging over the normally clean and clear skies above Nairobi’s National Park. Something already turned in my stomach.
We paid our entry fees to the national park and drove the short distance to the old ivory burn site. They had created a new site next to the old one as this time there were 10 piles with elephant tusks and one pile with rhino horns. They had also added illegally chopped sandalwood and poached skins to the piles. Leopard skins, lion skins and other animals who were killed just for the coat they were wearing.
The smell was intense. A horrifying mix of petrol, burnt dead matter and singed hair. The lovely sandalwood smell was unable to penetrate the stench of death.
We walked towards the burning piles and here the heat was intense. You couldn’t really get too close to them, the smell and the heat keeping you at a safe distance.
It was heart breaking.
You can watch it and think, wow that is impressive. But once I let my mind realise what it is I was looking at, I just cried. Sobbed probably describes it better. And right now, as I am writing this, thinking back of what we saw, the tears are rolling down my cheeks again. Literally. I just can’t get the picture of the many, many elephants, rhinos and other animals out of my head that were once the proud, and rightful, owner of these tusks, horns and skins.
The tusk piles here represent thousands of elephants and hundreds of rhino. Just picture them. Try it.
It is sickening.
This is what we humans are doing. Our greed, our ignorance; many Chinese still believe that elephant tusks are shedded naturally and the animal just grows new ones. Our desire for pointless trinkets is murdering these majestic animals. We are not feeding starving children with the meat, we are not curing any disease with their deaths, we are not contributing to a better planet by wiping these gentle giants from the plains. We are just murdering them. For trinkets and keepsakes. For nothing.
An elephant is killed in Africa every 15 minutes.
65% of Tanzania’s elephants were poached, murdered in cold blood, in the last 5 years.
30,000 elephants are murdered every year.
Only 400.00 elephants are estimated to be alive in Africa today.
WorthMoreAlive is the campaign that is hoping to turn these horrible statistics around. Kenya is trying hard to do something about this. Do what you can to help Africa. There are many things you can do.
- Donate money if you can.
- Raise more money to donate.
- Come to Kenya and shoot these amazing animals yourself, with a camera! By coming to Africa and Kenya in particular, you are contributing to a struggling tourist industry. An industry that relies on animals and their environment to be there, to be protected, so that you come and bring an income to the people living here, who share the land with these animals.
- Talk about it. Share your knowledge with anybody. With everybody. You never know who you might stop from buying ivory. You might tell a friend or a stranger that there really is no medicinal value in a rhino’s horn. That it is made of keratin, the same stuff your hair and fingernails are made off, even horses’ hoofs. This person might tell another person, and another. Education is key!
- Share the plight of the elephants, the rhinos, our predators and all the other animals on social media. It helps. It really does.
This cannot be repeated. This must never be allowed to be repeated. We owe it to this planet. You owe it to your children, you owe it to yourself.
Just do something.
On 30 April 2016 the Kenya government, despite huge controversy, burns part of their stockpile of elephant tusk and rhino horns. A total of 105 thousand kilogram of tusks and 1350 kilograms of rhino horn was stacked into 11 piles and burnt. These piles represent more than 8000 elephants and 343 rhinos. The idea is to send a very clear message to the world that the only value a rhino horn has is for a rhino. That the only one wearing ivory should be an elephant. It shows the world they are WorthMoreAlive. (An estimated 76 times more worth alive than death!)
We were not invited to the VIP only session of igniting the piles on Saturday. Instead we went on Sunday afternoon. The elephant tusks and rhino horns were still burning. And they are expected to burn for another 2-3 days. We saw many, many huge tusks still in tact. Slowly turning black, before they will too no longer exist. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. I have not known them individually but I will always remember them, I hope you will too.