Cheers to Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, who set fire to a huge stockpile of ivory on Saturday in an effort to show his country’s commitment to saving Africa’s elephants. The ceremony was designed to highlight the decline in Africa’s wild elephant population and the impact of poaching. Each year more than 30,000 elephants are killed for their tusks, according to the Guardian.

Kenya is seeking a total world ban on ivory sales when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meets in South Africa later this year as poaching poses an increasing risk to the species because of loopholes in ivory-trade related protections throughout the years. Friends of Animals wholeheartedly supports Kenya’s position.

Kenyatta ordered the destruction of more than 105 tons of tusks from approximately 8,000 elephants, stacked in 11 pyres at a ceremony in Nairobi National Park. Kenyatta, who was joined by other African leaders and foreign officials, has demanded a total ban on the ivory trade to protect wild elephants on the continent. The move has been supported by a range of conservation groups but criticized by others who claim it will encourage poaching.

The haul represented nearly the entire stock of Kenya’s confiscated ivory and included tusks, ivory sculptures and rhino horn said to be worth $150 million on the black market. Before lighting the first pyre, Kenyatta said: “The height of the pile of ivory before us marks the strength of our resolve. No one, and I repeat no one, has any business in trading in ivory, for this trade means death of our elephants and death of our natural heritage.”

Kenya banned all trophy hunting in 1977 and held its first such ivory burning in 1989, the same year CITES listed the African elephant on Appendix 1, thus banning the international commercial trade in African ivory. But less than a decade later, CITES agreed to allow a “one-time experimental” export of 49 metric tons of government stock-piled ivory from Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe to Japan, which occurred in 1997.

Then in 2008 CITES approved a second export, this time of 102 metric tons of ivory from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe, to Japan and China. The influx of ivory into China reinvigorated the government approved ivory carving industry, which had been waning since the 1989 CITES ivory trade ban was established.

Photo via CNN

Once again, kudos to Kenya for sending the latest worldwide message that the trade in animal parts must be stopped!