The Ivory Burn

$100 Million I have been working with UK Charity Stop Ivory on a long-term project to prevent the African Elephant from being hunted to extinction. As part of the project, I was given access to Kenya’s Ivory Stockpile, held at Kenyan Wildlife Services in Nairobi, which was burned in a historic ceremony, led by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya together with President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, in Nairobi on the 30th April 2016. The stockpile, 105 tonnes of confiscated and collected Ivory, was the remains of over 6,700 dead Elephants. In total, poaching has seen African Elephant numbers plummet from 1.2 million animals in 1989 to just 400,000 today; an elephant is killed every 15 minutes – at this rate, all remaining Elephants in Africa will be killed by 2026. The work created will be exhibited at the 17th Conference of the Parties to CITES, in Johannesburg in September of this year – to highlight that on every possible metric, Elephants out-value Ivory, and all that it stands for; to support the proposal to close all Ivory markets, forever; and to secure funding to implement the African Elephant Action Plan for a meaningful future for Elephants and communities across Africa.

The tusks of 6,700 Elephants are torched in a symbolic ceremony at Nairobi National Park, Kenya, on the 30th April 2016. With a market value of $100m, it was a statement to the world that the rape of the environment must stop. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
A ranger from Kenyan Wildlife Services holds the tusk from a Tusker Elephant. The ranger is 6” tall and yet is dwarfed by the Ivory he holds - which in itself is modest for a tusker at just 30 kgs. The Ivory stockpile held tusks of up to 48 kgs. The stockpile contained hundreds of these massive tusks, the last witness to a DNA oddity that created giants - giants that will not be seen again. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
Rangers from KWS, the Kenyan Wildlife Service guard the huge pyres, set alight by Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta. It will take five days for the stockpile to burn. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
Masai Warriors in traditional dress stand next to a huge pile of Ivory, as final perparations for the burn take place. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
Rangers from KWS unload 1.5 tonnes of Rhino horns and fragments on the morning of the Ivory burn. In addition to the 105 tonnes of Ivory, KWS burned over 900 pieces of confiscated and collected Rhino horn. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
Reporters and photographers from every major TV station, newspaper and magazine attended the Ivory burn. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
Hanging from the ceiling in one of the underground store rooms at KWS headquarters in Nairobi - a simple scale used to weigh and catalogue the thousands of pieces of Ivory. Kenyan Ivory represents just 6% of all the Ivory held by wiildlife services and governments across African Range States. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
It took a month of work to transport the huge stock of Ivory, and build the eleven pyres. They were guarded day and night by KWS anti-poaching rangers to ensure no single piece was stolen. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
A selection of Rhino horns, the day before being transported from the stockpile to the burn site. Unlike Ivory, which is made of dentine, Rhino horn is made of hair and burns easily, releasing great flares as they explode in the intense heat of the burn. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
As night falls, a KWS ranger stands guard. In the background stand some of the many shipping containers used to transport the Ivory stock to the burn site. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
The final cataloguing of the Ivory and Rhino horn inventory takes place two days before the burn, in one of the five strongrooms at KWS. Seated (right) is Esmond Bradley Martin, Rhino Specialist and an independent consultant on Ivory and Rhino horn trade. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
The day of the burn was marked by torrential rain, turning the burn site into a swamp. But late in the afternoon, as the pyres were finally set alight, the sun broke through creating an almost apocalyptic scene as smoke billowed into the African sky. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
As night fell, most of the pyres were well alight creating intense heat. Ivory does not burn easily, and never completely turns to ashes - what is left are millions of tiny fragments of degraded and unusable Ivory. The whole process takes about five days. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
105 tonnes of Ivory, a black market value of $100 million, each tusk a dead elephant. Tusks are either collected from naturally dead animals, or confiscated from illegal poaching. The Ivory stockpile at KWS contained five separate rooms packed with individually marked and catalogued samples. The largest tusks weigh 48 kg each, and the stockpile contained many of the last great Tusker Elephants. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
Smoke from the pyres blacken the sky at Nairobi National Park. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
Dr. Richard Leakey (centre), Chairman of KWS, prepares to speak at a ceremony attended by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, John Scanlon, Secretary General of CITES, and other dignitaries. Dr. Leakey urged CITES to outlaw, once and for all, the trade in all animal parts. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
Final preperations are made for the Ivory burn, held in Nairobi National Park on 30th April 2016. One hundred or so of the largest tusks, weighing up to 50kg each, were not burned, but held back to be exhibited in museums around the world - a key effort in highligting to future generations that this wilful destruction has denied the world to chance see the magnificent 'Tusker' Elephants in the wild again. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
A bandsman from the KWS Brass Band rests before welcoming President Uhuru Kenyatta to the Ivory burn. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
Hundreds of media wait for the commencement of the Ivory burn. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
The head of security for the Ivory Stockpile, KWS, Nairobi, Kenya - in the Ivory Stockpile strong room. Taken in January 2016, the full inventory had been almost completed and final plans were being drawn up for the historic Ivory burn. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
A ranger from KWS stands guard as the fires take hold. The eleven fires were ignited and maintained by underground pipelines that were fed by three petrol tankers. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
Set against a brooding sky, that would herald torrential rains on the day of the burn, final preparations are made under the gaze of the world's media. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
As the sun finally sets on a project that was long in the making, the pyres shoot flames high in the sky - a symbol of the worthlessness of ivory, and the need to protect Elephants, their ecosystem, and the environment as a whole. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
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