172 million in illicit wildlife goods to burn

(CNN) – A heavy burden for Kenyans to bear.  Never has the continent’s poaching epidemic been so visceral, than this endless train of elephant tusks, forming something of graveyard to the world’s iconic endangered species and soon this will turn into a crematorium.

12 pyres of ivory and rhino horn will be set ablaze in the largest burn of illegal wildlife products in history.

“We have a pumping station, there we’ve got a mixing tank where we’ll be mixing kerosene and diesel 50 percent each, and then we will pump it down individual pipes to each tower. We call these ivory towers,” said Robin Hollister.

It’s the ivory of around eight thousand elephants.  Combined with the rhino horn, this bounty would be worth estimated 172 million U.S. dollars on the black market.

The potential income that could be generated from this sale has been difficult for many cash-strapped African governments to accept, money that could be put perhaps toward conservation, but Kenya believes its worth absolutely nothing.

“From a Kenya perspective, we are not watching any money go up in smoke because from our perspective there is no intrinsic value. Kenya believes that the only value of the ivory is tusks on a live elephant,” said Kitili Mbathi.

It’s a practice that goes back to 1989, a Kenyan invention to deal with a severe poaching crisis.

Today a new crisis looms, a growing Chinese economy, and appetite for illegal wildlife products and now audience to reach.

“They never saw the 1989-1990 crisis, they were not subjected to the pressure that we brought on the world’s markets in those days. So we have to do it again and that’s what we’re doing,” said Richard Leakey.

A record number of rhinos were poached in Africa last year, around 1,338 and contributing to this stockpile, an elephant is killed every 15 minutes for its tusks.

Each pair of these tusks tells an individual story of an elephant’s life and you can tell just what kind of life it was by the grooves and markings you can see here, you can tell its approximate age, and often times how it died as well.

There are these huge tusks that weigh up to 110 pounds each, and then there are those tiny tusks belonging to babies, never given the chance to mature or live.

The fire could last for up to a week, but organizers hope its image, and stigma will be burned into memory forever.

Copyright CNN 2016

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