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Why Kenya’s Move To Burn Ivory Stockpiles will Backfire


Last week on Saturday, the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta participated in setting to fire 11 pyres and finished ivory goods representing more than 6,000 dead elephants. But will this action really save the elephants which are facing extinction? Many think it’s a gamble and evidence is there to support these assertions.

One evidence in particular is a study done on Ivory in the Philippines. It was discovered that burning ivory stacks did not result in a reduction in elephant poaching. Instead, demand for ivory went up due to the scarcity created and the increased prices for ivory.

This is not the first time that Kenya is burning its ivory stockpiles. It has carried out this activity four times since 1989. As Joel Bellenson, an Entrepreneur in Uganda has noted; “removing the marginal supply of a slowly replenishing resource increases the value of the remainder.”

What about the moral message this act sends out? “The pious hopes that the fires will send a morality message will fall on the same deaf ears who will instead hear a much more powerful message that the price of ivory will increase,” Bellenson explains.

Thus, Bellenson suggests that the way forward is to sell the ivory off the market and put the funds to use for developing the poor communities that neighbour the parks. Otherwise, the pyres “signify a price increase of ivory and thus more incentive to increase the pace of killing of the elephants.”

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