Kenya burns tonnes of ivory in anti-poaching message

A Kenyan Wildlife Service ranger stands guard near stacks of elephant tusks.

Thousands of elephant tusks and rhino horns has been burned in Kenya, in a warning to poachers and smugglers that their "murderous" illegal trade will not be tolerated.

In the biggest ivory bonfire in history, more than 100 tonnes of ivory was laid in 11 large pyres, along with one made up of rhino horn, in Nairobi's national park before President Uhuru Kenyatta arrived to set them alight.

On the black market, the tusks and horns would be worth in excess of £123 million ($180m).

Mr Kenyatta said the ceremony would show Kenya's commitment to "fighting wildlife crime and putting wildlife products beyond any economic use".

Before lighting the blaze, he said:

A Kenyan Wildlife Service ranger stands guard near stacks of elephant tusks. Credit: Reuters

Kenya first began staging burnings in 1989.

The ivory came from around 16,000 tusks seized from poachers or traders, along with some which had been gathered from elephants which died of natural causes, to prevent dealers getting their hands on it.

Gabon President Ali Bongo was invited to light one of the pyres, and spoke of the "massacre" of forest elephants across central Africa.

He backed called to ban all sale of ivory, saying unless urgent action was taken "we risk losing this magnificent animal".

"[I am] going to put you out of business," he said, addressing poachers. "So the best thing you can do is to go into retirement now."

It was the largest ivory bonfire in history

There are between 450,000 and 500,000 elephants in Africa, but every year more than 30,000 are killed for their ivory, which is highly valued by Asian markets.

In March, ITV News highlighted the issue in its #StopSlaughter series which investigated the ongoing poaching crisis.

Read: #StopSlaughter: The stories which made the news