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Nairobi National Park: Thousands of elephants have been killed in recent years for their ivory

Kenya conducted the event to demonstrate that ivory has no value to anyone except elephants

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Kenya conducted the event to demonstrate that ivory has no value to anyone except elephants. President Uhuru Kenyatta pledged his country’s support for a complete ban on the ivory trade at the conference for the global conservation body known as CITES, which opens Saturday in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, is expected to make a determination on whether countries in Africa should destroy seized ivory or be allowed to sell it to fund conservation efforts. The question has sparked heated debate on the continent, with some arguing that the future of elephants is at stake.

FILE - A worker carries spray bottles of gel fuel to help the burning, as he walks past pyres of ivory that were set on fire in Nairobi National Park, Kenya, April 30, 2016.
FILE – A worker carries spray bottles of gel fuel to help the burning, as he walks past pyres of ivory that were set on fire in Nairobi National Park, Kenya, April 30, 2016.

“Our philosophy has been to burn the entire stockpile,” said Judy Wakhungu, Kenya’s Cabinet secretary for the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, “because this is one way of demonstrating to the world that if you offer trade in ivory, we give the misimpression that, actually, ivory is available. And yet it’s this very ivory that’s endangering our species.”

Tens of thousands of elephants have been killed in recent years for their ivory, as a result of strong demand from Asian markets. The recent “Great Elephant Census” showed a 30 percent decline in African savanna elephants between 2007 and 2014.

About 30 African countries, including Kenya, want a comprehensive ban on all international trade in ivory.

“Nobody should buy ivory in the world,” said Paul Udoto, corporate communications manager for the Kenya Wildlife Service.

Request to sell

Namibia and Zimbabwe have officially requested through CITES the right to sell their ivory stockpiles. Along with South Africa, these countries say they want to put the proceeds toward conservation efforts.

Zimbabwe’s finance minister, Patrick Chinamasa, suggested to parliament in July that there could be other uses for the funds from ivory sales.

FILE - A Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management official checks ivory inside a storeroom in Harare, Aug. 22, 2012.
FILE – A Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management official checks ivory inside a storeroom in Harare, Aug. 22, 2012.

“We have $9.6 billion worth of ivory in the country, sufficient to write off our debt,” Chinamasa said. “So this is the paradox of Africa. Rich Africa, poor Africans. Because the policies are coming from outside, and imposed on us. They don’t have elephants, but they become members of CITES to ban and stop us from disposing of our own assets.”

South Africa says destroying ivory makes it scarcer, upping the black market price and driving more poaching.

‘For the good of the elephants’

Kenya argues that previous “one-time” sales have demonstrated the opposite is true, and that opening up trade for some countries puts elephants across the continent at risk.

“It is very, very hard to distinguish between legal and illegal ivory,” said Philip Muruthi, vice president of species conservation at the African Wildlife Foundation. “And that means that having a legal supply of ivory in the market perpetuates the killing. And so, the cycle continues. Where you have trade, you have benefits going to a few kingpins, and you deny livelihoods to communities, and the populations continue to suffer.”

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Muruthi also emphasized the importance of a united African voice during the upcoming CITES talks.

“I know there are challenges, but I do believe an agreement will be found and it will be found for the good of the continent. It will be for the good of the elephants, and for the many, many communities and national economies that depend on elephants,” he said.

Although elephants are the top issue for Africa at the CITES talks, trade restrictions and allowances for close to 500 other plant and animal species — including pangolins, tigers, snakes, sharks and rosewood — will also be on the table. (VOA)

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Kenya Vows to Cut Emissions as Cooking with Traditional Fuels Kills More than 21,500 Each Year

The health risks were greatest in rural areas, where 90% of households use wood stoves, compared to 70% nationwide, Kenya's first household survey

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Kenya, Emissions, Fuels
A trailer drives along the main Nairobi/Mombasa highway past sacks of charcoal, used for domestic cooking in many Kenyan homes, in Kibwezi. June 20, 2014. VOA

More than 21,500 Kenyans die each year from cooking with traditional fuels like charcoal and firewood, new government data showed on Tuesday, as authorities pledged to meet a global goal of universal access to clean cooking energy by 2030. Kenya.

The health risks were greatest in rural areas, where 90% of households use wood stoves, compared to 70% nationwide, Kenya’s first household survey on energy usage in cooking by the energy ministry and the Clean Cooking Association of Kenya found.

It also found that 80% of households relied solely on either charcoal or firewood as their primary cooking fuel, with 68 billion shillings ($660 million) of charcoal consumed each year.

Kenya’s energy minister Charles Keter said the situation was “grave” and called for more focus on providing clean energy options, such as gas and electricity, to the poor.

Kenya, Emissions, Fuels
FILE -Women walk out of the forest carrying wood to use for cooking, in Tsavo East, in Kenya, June 20, 2014. VOA

“This data underlines the great exposure to harmful pollutants which account for about over 21,560 deaths annually,” he said, launching the survey at a conference on clean cooking.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says 3 billion people globally cook with solid fuels such as charcoal and coal on open fires or traditional stoves, producing high levels of carbon monoxide, which kills about four million people a year.

Countries have committed to ensure universal access to clean, modern energy for cooking by the year 2030 as part of 17 global development goals, but low levels of investment in the clean cooking sector are hindering progress.

The widespread use of dirty fuels also contributes to climate change and deforestation, according to energy experts.

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Government officials said Kenya has committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% — where clean cooking will account for about 14% — under the Paris agreement on climate change, and it hopes to meet this target by 2028. (VOA)