Giants Club elephant summit: Kenya calls for end to ivory trade
President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya has urged an end to Africa's illegal ivory trade, saying it means death for elephants and death for tourism.
He is hosting a summit of African leaders, business people and scientists in Nanyuki, central Kenya, to discuss how to save elephants from extinction.
Experts warn Africa's elephants could be extinct within decades.
Appetite for ivory in Asia is fuelling demand, the main trafficking route being via the Kenyan port of Mombasa.
The sale of ivory, even in legal domestic markets, increased risks to the animals, Mr Kenyatta told the Giants Club summit.
"The future of the African elephant and rhino is far from secure so long as demand for their products continues to exist," the president said.
"There is convincing evidence that poaching is aided by international criminal syndicates; it fuels corruption, it undermines the rule of law as well as security and even provides funding for other transnational crime."
Poaching, he added, was a "direct threat" to efforts to achieve social economic development in the region.
War on elephants, by Alastair Leithead, BBC News
The ivory is getting through because people are prepared to pay for it. Stopping the men with arrows and the corrupt officials is just one part of the solution - the other is destroying the hunger for ivory.
The love of ivory goes back millennia. Its pure, translucent beauty and the ease with which a tusk can be carved into intricate sculptures have given it a lasting value throughout the ages.
Tackling demand and destroying the market are both important but there are also ways of making elephants more valuable alive than dead.
In the parks and game reserves of Africa, close encounters with the most remarkable animals on the planet lie in wait - you just need time, patience and a good eye.
The presidents of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, and Gabon, Ali Bongo, were also at the conference.
After the summit ends on Saturday, Mr Kenyatta will help set fire to more than 100 tonnes of ivory.
That is nearly the entire stock of ivory confiscated by Kenya, amounting to the tusks of more than 6,700 elephants.
The patron of the summit, UK-based newspaper proprietor Evgeny Lebedev, told BBC News it was aimed at raising funds for conservation and coming up with strategies to tackle conflicts between the animals and people.
"Very possibly by 2025, these magnificent creatures will be completely extinct," he said.
Researchers say Africa has only a 10th of the population of elephants it had nearly a century ago.
The African push to tackle ivory poaching, by BBC Monitoring
- Kenya is struggling with poaching, and tough laws with huge fines and prison sentences do not seem to be a deterrent. Kenya Wildlife Service says it suffers from staff and equipment shortages.
- Uganda is a conservation success story. Elephant populations have increased to around 5,000 after reaching a low of 700 in the 1980s. Kampala has set up a wildlife crime unit, and plans cross-border programmes with its neighbours.
- Gabon uses paratroops to crack down on poachers who target elephants living in dense equatorial forests. The wildlife service has expanded ten-fold to over 650 guards with a much-increased budget.
- Botswana adopted a shoot-to-kill policy in December 2013 in a bid to curb the poaching of elephants. It also placed a total ban on hunting in 2014 which extends to all animal species.
- Tanzania's government has increased routine patrols, netting over 1,000 suspected poachers by the end of 2015.
The continent is home to between 450,000 to 500,000 elephants but more than 30,000 are killed every year for their tusks. Tanzania lost 65% of its elephant population in the last five years.
Experts say rhino horn can fetch as much as $60,000 (£41,000) per kg, more than gold or cocaine.
Pyres of ivory
The Kenyan ivory has been piled into a dozen giant pyres.
It will be seven times the size of any stockpile destruction so far, and represents about 5% of global ivory stores.
Some 1.35 tonnes of rhino horn will also be burned.
The street value of the ivory to be destroyed is estimated at more than $100m (£70m), and rhino horn at $80m.
"We don't believe there is any intrinsic value in ivory, and therefore we're going to burn all our stockpiles and demonstrate to the world that ivory is only valuable on elephants," said Kitili Mbathi, director general of the Kenya Wildlife Service.