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President Kenyatta sets fire to world’s biggest ivory haul

PIvory haulresident Uhuru Kenyatta on Saturday afternoon set on fire the world’s biggest haul of ivory and rhino horns as a sign that Kenya does not tolerate wildlife poaching.


The President was joined by the President of Gabon Omar Ali Bongo, Deputy President William Ruto and other dignitaries to set ablaze the 105 tonnes of elephant tusks and 1.35 tonnes of Rhino horn at the Nairobi National Park.


President Kenyatta, who was accompanied by First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, called on other nations to join Kenya in launching a direct attack on the trade in ivory and other wildlife because such business means death.


“Ivory belongs to our elephants. There will not be a market in it,” said the President as he called for a complete ban in any form of trade in ivory.


The President told off some who have argued that Kenya should have sold off the illegal ivory stocks worth more than Ksh 15 billion to raise money for other use.


“For us ivory is worthless unless it is on an elephant. I will rather wait for the judgement of the future generations who I am sure will appreciate the action we have taken,” said the President.


The President said Kenya is a truly blessed nation with a rich heritage and all Kenyans have a duty to preserve what nature has bestowed on the country.


After lighting the fire, which experts say will take several days to completely destroy the ivory and rhino horns, the President announced that the gates of the Nairobi National Park would  be opened for youth aged 17 years and below.


The youth will access the Park for free and be able to witness for themselves the biggest haul of ivory ever burnt by any Government in the world.


Also at the event were senior representatives from foreign nations including the French Minister for Ecology, Ms  Segolene Royal, and the United States Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, Ms Heather Higginbottom.


President Bongo said poachers are a threat to national security and if not dealt with can easily morph into bigger threats such as terrorists.


“We are going to put you out of business and the best thing for you to do is to retire from your illegal activities,” said President Bongo.


Deputy President Ruto said the burning of the ivory signifies Kenya’s commitment to preserve its heritage.


“Today marks a historic moment as we send the strongest message ever to poachers, traders and purchasers of ivory and rhino that their trade is worthless and valueless and evil,” said the Deputy President.


Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources Judy Wakhungu said the burning of the ivory symbolizes Kenya’s determination to preserve its heritage.


The chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Service, Dr Richard Leakey, called on other countries to join Kenya in taking a strong stand against trade in ivory.


He said countries that are hoarding ivory, with an argument that they have removed their illegal stocks from circulation, are wrong.


“They should be shamed out of their position. There is no justification for speculation in ivory,” said Dr Leakey.


The representatives from the US and France read messages from President Barack Obama and President Francois Hollande expressing their support for Kenya’s position on the protection of wildlife and the environment.


The Secretary General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Mr John Scanlon also spoke at the event.


Kenya was the first country to ever burn ivory when former President Daniel arap Moi set illegal stocks on fire in 1989. The action has been copied by many other countries including the United States.