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Kenya: The Priciest Pyre

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Sixty tons of firewood and 140 gal. of gasoline were needed to get the great bonfire going. Nothing less would reduce to ashes the 2,400 elephant tusks — twelve tons of nonflammable ivory in all — that Kenyan wildlife officials had confiscated from poachers in the past four years.

President Daniel arap Moi ignited the 20-ft. tower of ivory, which had been erected in a clearing overlooking the Athi Plains in Nairobi’s game park. The pyre was a memorial to the hundreds of thousands of elephants slaughtered in Africa by poachers over the past ten years, and a symbol of Kenya’s avowed resolve to end poaching and the global ivory trade that threatens the elephant with extinction. In just the past decade the population of Kenya’s herd has plummeted from 65,000 to about 17,000. Had Kenya sold the store of tusks, many hacked from the skulls of baby elephants, it could have earned $3 million. But, said Moi, “obviously Kenya cannot appeal to the world to stop buying – ivory if at the same moment we are selling the very same commodity.”

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