Friday, July 22, 2011

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Kenyan president sets 5 tons of ivory ablaze to push conservation

  • Friday, July 22, 2011
  • Aruntha Kanagaratnam
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  • Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki set five tons of elephant tusks and ivory carvings ablaze Wednesday in the first national celebration of African Elephant Law Enforcement Day.

    The president burned 335 elephant tusks and more than 40,000 ivory carvings, which were seized from smugglers in Singapore, according to a news statement by the Kenya Wildlife Service.

    According to the agency, 187 Kenyan elephants were illegally killed in 2010. Kibaki said he wants his country to be at the forefront of wildlife conservation.

    "Through the disposal of contraband ivory, we seek to formally demonstrate to the world our determination to eliminate all forms of illegal trade in ivory," Kibaki said.

    Hundreds of conservationists traveled to the country to highlight the ongoing fight against wildlife crimes, the statement said. The event marked the culmination of a week of conservation-themed celebrations that included the launch of a new African wildlife monitoring system.

    Noah Wekesa, Kenya's minister for forestry and wildlife, said the country is also finalizing a bill that will severely penalize poachers to ensure illegal wildlife trade has no "haven within our region."

    In May, Kenyan officials seized 115 pieces of ivory disguised as diplomatic baggage at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Kibaki said countries need to understand the effects illegal trade has on national economies.

    "We cannot afford to sit back and allow criminal networks to destroy our common future,'' he said.

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