Kenya is Going to Light a $100 Million Ivory Bonfire to Send a Powerful Message

The Kenyan government has had a busy month.

That’s because they’ve been assembling ivory from some 8,000 to 10,000 elephants into a dozen pyres before they burn the stockpile in a massive public bonfire this Saturday. The spectacle will be the largest such burn in history.

The whole event is designed to send a powerful message to poachers – a trade that kills 35,000 elephants a year – highlighting the fact that a the ivory trade must be avoided at all costs. The tusks would be reportedly worth more than $105 million on the black market.

While a pair of tusks is worth an estimated $20,000, the value of a single elephant over the course of its life is far more than that. In fact, a 2013 report found that an elephant generated close to $1.6 million over its lifetime, reports The Huffington Post.

The captured tusks were originally intended for trade and have remained untouched for decades. But, according to National Geographic explorers-in-residence Dereck and Beverly Joubert, if all of the elephants who once owned the ivory were walking across the African savannah, trunk to tail, they’d stretch for more than 30 miles. Through their work, they highlight that we could lose the entire species within a few decades.

Kenya, ivory, bonfire, elephants, awareness

Photo: Peter Chiara/African Wildlife Foundation

It’s not just the elephants that are under threat; the rhinos could soon disappear too. The Kenyan burn will also torch one ton of horns from rhinos. The plight of elephants and rhinos is tied to the growing industry in illicit body parts, and ivory is seen as a coveted status symbol in some Asian countries. Rhino horn is now worth more than its weight in gold.

The growing demand has inspired poachers to extend their reach. Today, four or five elephants are killed each hour. While in 2014, 1,215 rhinos were slaughtered.

The burn will be attended by Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, along with some famous faces, including Elton John and Leonardo DiCaprio. The bonfire will take about four hours to burn.