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3.5 Tons of Poached African Ivory Burns for 3 Days

NBC News

African authorities burn millions worth of confiscated ivory in a stand against poaching and illegal trafficking. 

Chess sets, sculptures, totem poles, jewelry and over 2,000 tusks were burned in Cameroon in the ongoing fight against poaching. Elephants in central Africa have dropped by two-thirds of their population from 2002 to 2012. Governments are collaborating with the U.S. to stop this detrimental activity which also mixes with drug trafficking and terrorist groups.

One African official says that burns like this “send a clear message” adding that “any fight against terrorism has to be comprehensive.”

Ivory Burns 615

The U.S. itself has held similar burns, one in 2013 and another in 2015. Currently, there are over 200 special operation forces in Africa helping to fight the war on poaching. A war which leads to the deaths of hunting guides and park rangers ever year.

One example of the extent these poachers will go to in order to find their prize is what happened in Bouba Njida National Park in Cameroon. A group from Sudan, heavily armed, wiped out over half of the elephant population in 2012.

Much of the demand for this comes from China, whose citizens value the substance at over $1,000 a pound. Akin to diamonds, the people see ivory as a sign of social status and therefore account for around 70 percent of global demand.

A bull elephant grazes in South Africa's Kruger National Park, December 10, 2009. The park, a popular destination for local and foreign tourists, is expecting a surge in visitors attending the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings (SOUTH AFRICA)

The fight for ivory and control over wildlife populations continues in the political unrest and chaotic countries holding these prize animals. Authorities hope symbolic burnings such as this will help send a strong message to poachers and illegal traffickers.

Still some disagree with the idea and wonder why the tusks can’t be put to better use, such as wildlife education and museums. One official responded, saying the burn puts these items “out of reach.”

As the black smoke burns for days from this historical pile, one thing remains clear. This fight is far from over.

Images via NBC News and The Atlantic

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3.5 Tons of Poached African Ivory Burns for 3 Days