NAIROBI, KENYA - Kenya sent a message to poachers this past weekend by setting fire to thousands of elephant tusks and rhino horns. The burning of more than 100 tons of ivory destroyed a stockpile that would have been worth a fortune to smugglers. Kenya's president lit the fire to say that the trade in the animal parts must be stopped.
Plumes of smoke rose as the flames took hold of tusks piled up in a game reserve on the edge of the capital, Nairobi. The ivory came from about 8,000 animals, the biggest incineration ever of its kind.
By some estimates, the ivory would have an illegal market value of $150 million dollars. Kenya is seeking a total world ban on ivory sales as poaching poses an increasing risk to the species. In the 1970s, Africa had about 1.2 million elephants, but now has 400,000 to 450,000.
There are fewer than 30,000 rhinos left across Africa and one species, the northern white rhino, is on the brink of extinction.