Ivory from around Kenya arrives at KWS ahead of planned burn

Kenya Wildlife Service director general Kitili
Kenya Wildlife Service director general Kitili Mbathi (right) and his deputy Patrick Omondi (second right) carry elephant tusks from the KWS strong room during the Ivory on April 4, 2016. 100 tonnes of ivory is set to be destroyed at the end of this month. PHOTO | MARTIN MUKANGU 

105 tonnes of ivory and 1.5 tonnes of rhino horns worth billions of shillings have started arriving at the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) headquarters in Nairobi ahead of a planned destruction on April 30.

KWS director general Kitili Mbathi told the Business Daily that Kenya’s planned burning was a clarion call to the entire world that commercial trade on ivory, rhino horns among other game trophies must be banned to save them from extinction.

“We as a country believe ivory and rhino horns are valueless once harvested and the only way to allow elephants and rhino populations to thrive is a total ban on the trade. Kenya has in the past shown the world its commitment and its upon wildlife lovers to join us is seeking the global ban,” he said.

The ivory haul reportedly represents 38,000 elephants killed for their prized tusks.

Mr Mbathi received the impounded haul from Narok, Tsavo East, Tsavo West with more still awaited from Laikipia where a large amount of ivory and rhino horn are also kept.

The ivory has been sourced from suspected poachers, at airports, harbours awaiting shipment, animals that die a natural death and from finished ornamental products.

Part of the haul was also confiscated from travellers on transit through Kenya from Uganda, DR Congo and other countries in West Africa.

“We have some Kenyan diplomats from Finland who though they have licences to keep the ivory bangles, earings and rings have opted to surrender the same for destruction as a sign of commitment that only elephants and rhinos should wear ivory and horns respectively,” he said.

Mr Mbathi added that other owners of ornamental items made from ivory were free to surrender the same to KWS officials saying no one would be penalised for possessing the finished ornamental products.

At the same time, Mr Mbathi said that another 30 tonnes of ivory and rhino horns held as exhibits for pending criminal cases would be preserved and destroyed at a later date upon completion of the trials.

The planned burning of the stockpile will be the forth time Kenya is doing so and is to be officiated by president Uhuru Kenyatta.

In 1989, former President Daniel Moi set ablaze the first 12 tonne stockpile worth an estimated Sh1.2 billion.

President Kibaki followed suit when he set ablaze 335 tusks weighing 5 tonnes followed by his successor President Kenyatta who burned 15 tonnes in February this year to mark the life of late Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai on World Wildlife Day.

The April 30 event is expected to bring together several heads of states, philanthropists of pro-wildlife charities as well as Hollywood celebrities supporting conservation.

It also precedes the soon to be held 17th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species (CITES) in Johannesburg this September where 182 State parties in attendance will be coerced to take a decisive stand on ivory trade.