Funeral pyre for elephants and rhinos

By Wandering Maasai | 05 May 2016

A first-hand account of the Kenya ivory burn

On 30th April 2016 Kenya burnt 105 tonnes of ivory and 1.3 tonnes of rhino horn in an effort to demonstrate to the world that the materials have no value.

Asilia team member, Anjali Bhamania, went along to witness the event. This is her report.

It was a long and tiring day in more ways than one. I arrived at the ivory burning site inside the Nairobi National Park at 07h00 to beat the crowds and get a good position. It was raining, pouring actually, like a harbinger of the somber mood to come. Gradually the huge marquee filled up with people. Many of them wore raincoats, Wellington boots and sported umbrellas. The chatter was subdued, as if we were attending the funeral of a beloved grandmother, which we were in a way.

After the rain stopped our President arrived. Representatives of other countries such as the U.S.A., France, Uganda and Ethiopia were also there, as was His Excellency, the President of Gabon.

By this time a crowd of around 2,000 people had gathered to witness this dark event in human history – because that’s what it is, a story of human greed and ignorance.

The dignitaries made speeches about the cause of these animals’ death. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that it is because there’s a market for both ivory and rhino horn, especially from East Asia. “Kenya will never sell its ivory again,” said our President.

Richard Leakey, Head of Kenya Wildlife Service.

After the pyres were lit we all fell silent as we watched and reflected on how much poorer our world is without the animals. I felt really sad and angry at the same time. How can people be so greedy they’re prepared to murder such magnificent beings? I know that many of the consumers are supposed to be ignorant but ignorance in this day and age is no excuse.

The smell of fuel filled the air as the fires took hold. A loud roar could be heard as each one flared. And then the other smell hit us. Like nails burning. Then we heard another loud roar and the sound of falling bones as the ivory collapsed on itself.

It was awful – this funeral for 6,500 elephants and 450 rhinos.

After it was all over the rain started again, like a requiem for the souls of the departed.

I work in the safari industry. I see these magnificent animals in the course of my work and I ask any of you out there who might think that owning an ivory or rhino horn trinket somehow defines you to come and experience our wildlife in their natural habitat. And I further challenge you not to be moved by their aliveness.

If we kill the animals we kill ourselves. It is because of them that forests are kept alive, in turn providing us with the basic necessities of life, like water and plants. I urge you all to visit these beautiful creatures here, in their home, to celebrate their lives rather than their death.

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