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Sunday, April 14
The Indiana Daily Student

opinion editorial

EDITORIAL: Kenya burns ivory

One hundred and five metric tons of elephant tusk ivory was burned in 11 pyres around the Nairobi National Park in Kenya last Saturday as part of removing ivory from the multi-million dollar illegal ivory trade in Kenya.

Other countries, like the United States and France, have destroyed their ivory stockpiles to show solidarity but Kenya introduced the practice.

Kenya has been doing this since 1989 in order to prevent the illegal sale of ivory in the country by destroying it rather than flooding the market. However, Kenya is still burning ivory in an effort to reach the same solution it has been after for nearly 30 years.

While the Editorial Board understands the logic in burning the ivory rather than letting it be sold, this practice has not proven to affect the ivory trade enough to end it completely. The tusks that are burnt are taken from Kenya’s parks and ports, taken from elephants that either died naturally or were poached.

The Nairobi National Park employees also burned a 1.5 ton haul of rhino horns. All in all, the horns and ivory that were burned represent almost all of Kenya’s collection, more than $300 million.

It’s a difficult problem to find the correct solution. The effect of removing so much ivory from the market is an increase in the price of ivory, which actually encourages more poachers to kill elephants for ivory.

On the other hand, flooding the market has equal downsides, in that it normalizes the selling of ivory, and when those stockpiles are depleted, will result in more poaching.

What’s more, keeping the ivory in a stockpile is more dangerous than burning it.

Paula Kahumbu, the Kenyan CEO of the conservation group WildlifeDirect, claimed ivory dealers can often bribe the guards of the stockpiles in order to obtain ivory.

She told NPR, ”That’s actually quite risky, to go hunting animals. Actually, if you can raid a stockpile by bribing the guy who has the key, that’s going to be the fastest way that you can get your ivory.”

Kenya has made progress in preventing poaching. Poaching has decreased by 80 percent since 2013. Although Kenya has made strides in protecting their elephants, countries like Botswana denounce Kenya’s ivory burning and said it sends the “wrong message,” as reported by NPR.

While Kenya thinks the burning of ivory in such a theatrical manner will shame ivory buyers out of buying ivory, as well as eliminate the ivory that can be stolen from them, the largest market for ivory is in China. Hongxiang Huang, CEO of China House in Nairobi, told NPR shaming will not work on the Chinese.

NPR reported Huang believes shaming Chinese ivory buyers only, “politicizes that issue and plays into Chinese fears that their country is being undermined by Western NGOs and governments.”

While China might have the largest market for African ivory, China agreed to phase out its domestic ivory trade last year and ivory prices are down by more than half.

Although the ivory trade still exists, the Editorial Board thinks that a complicated issue usually requires more than one solution.

The current measures taken by Kenya and China are helping everyone progress toward removing the ivory trade completely.

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