The Big Burn
It was the loudest demonstration of zero tolerance to illegal trade in wildlife products and the largest burn of ivory ever witnessed. It was also the longest I’ve had to wait for an event to start.
Saturday 30th April 2016 will indeed be a historic day. It will forever be remembered as the day 105 tons of ivory and 1 ton of rhino horn were set ablaze in Nairobi National Park by President Uhuru Kenyatta as dignitaries, conservationists and the whole world looked on.
Amunga, Micere and I got to Nairobi National Park as the rains generously soaked the grounds at 9.30am. After clearing with the several layers of security, we made our way to a Dome where we got much needed shelter from the rain. We were not allowed anywhere near the ivory like on Wednesday and had to jostle for muddy vantage points to witness the historic event.
It was only when the rhino horn arrived that we were allowed within several metres of the ivory, but just for a few minutes.
Rhino horn is the most expensive nail in the world; worth more than it’s weight in gold.
The rains weren’t going to be an obstacle to the task at hand.
African sacred ibis.
Posing with Dr Paula Kahumbu is Usha Harish, an amazing photographer from Uganda. She got into photography in 2008 after a trip to Masai Mara and her work is simply stunning! She’s one person I’m glad I got to meet on this day.
The ladies decided to be fashionable while Amunga and I decided to be practical.
I’ve met Njoroge at many public functions. He’s a photographer deserving all the respect he received. He’s been shooting for many decades and still does it with a passion I can’t keep up with.
At about 3pm, we saw signs that Uhuru Kenyatta had arrived.
In the Dome, Dr Richard Leakey got a round of applause when he suggested the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) be replaced with KITES (Kill International Trade in Endangered Species).
President Uhuru Kenyatta said that by destroying ivory, Kenya was making it known that our national heritage is not for sale; and ivory is worthless, unless it is on our elephants.
Outside the Dome, journalists from across the globe positioned themselves for the perfect shot of Uhuru Kenyatta lighting the fire. Since I couldn’t get a good position, I decided to shoot them.
Away from the reach of my lens, the pyres were set ablaze by the dignitaries.
Then I got an open moment and took this shot. President Uhuru looked at the ivory burning with a sense of accomplishment. It was like a check box ticked in his mind, and he was happy it had.
I don’t think they’re taught to look at fire and just watch it burn in fire school. This must have been a first for him.
That’s rhino horn burning in the foreground.
When the fire threatened to spread onto the grass, the firemen did what they were trained to do in fire school.
36,000 litres of fuel were donated by Total to help burn the ivory and rhino horn.
It is estimated the fire will keep burning for two weeks.
The message from the burn will last a lifetime.