Uhuru Kenyatta, the president of Kenya, bent over to light a tray of fuel, the eyes of a thousand observers fixated on his back. Looming in front of him was a massive tower of ivory—one of 11 starkly white pyres set up here at Nairobi National Park, a sprawling wildlife-filled oasis in Kenya’s capital city. Doused in fuel, smoke quickly began to billow from each of the intricately assembled piles. Bright orange blazes soon overtook them, blackening the formerly pristine pyramids.
By the time the last flames flicker out tonight, Kenya will have reduced 105 tons of elephant ivory and 1.35 tons of rhino horn to smoldering ash—the final remains of some 6,500 elephants and 450 rhinos killed for their tusks and horns. As President Kenyatta said in a speech earlier today, the burn is meant to send a strong and clear statement to the world: “For us, ivory is worthless unless it is on our elephants.”
Photo information: A pile of ivory burns.
PHOTOGRAPH BY CHARLIE HAMILTON JAMES, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC