This last weekend saw one of the most significant anti-poaching demonstrations the world has ever seen. In Nairobi Kenya twelve ivory towers worth $172 million were set on fire, the largest burning in recorded history. For more.
Many African Heads of State and hundreds of onlookers watched as Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta set fire to almost 1.5 tonnes of illicit wildlife goods. Among them was a great friend of Iconic Africa’s, award-winning filmmaker, conservationist and founder of the incredible initiative: Rhinos Without Borders, Dereck Joubert. Dereck was kind enough to share this experience with us.
Picture courtesy of Great Plains.
Describe the event for us:
Dereck: “As I stood in front of 11 ominous piles of ivory and nearby 1.5 tons of rhinos horn about to be burned to cinders I was struck by the sadness of this, this travesty of over 5,000 dead elephants. Their teeth piled up ready for some kind of Viking burial ritual.”
What did you as a conservationist feel about this incredible feat and its consequences?
Dereck: “ I know it is controversial but it comes down to a choice between buying into ivory as a currency or not. We can all use money for a lot of things, one being anti poaching to save the survivors. It’s also used to corrupt our values and money is often difficult to control totally. But as conservationists we are always looking for money to deploy into the field for protection. We need it for research and for compensating the poor communities of Africa that have seen their resources used for centuries. All of those are important. But this is not the place to find that money. Killing some elephants to save the rest (hunting) is the same argument that many a poor family in Pakistan or Afghanistan deal with all the time: “Do we sell off one daughter so our sons can marry well?” Or other similar arguments that justify all sorts of actions that we know are fundamentally wrong. Ivory belongs to elephants and turning it into a tradable commodity stimulates a trade that drives prices up because of demand; demand for an item that can only be acquired from a dead elephant. Dead elephants are worthless to the greater planet’s scheme of life cycles and so too should their ivory or other body part be. We are better than this. We know that selling ivory kills elephants.”
Any parting thoughts:
Dereck: “Today the fires will be lit and while for me there is a great sadness in this spectacle I am one of those who sees it as a respectful ritual where we pay homage to these magnificent animals cut down by our hand. As the flames consume them I will be standing quietly in remembrance of the elephants I have known, not worrying about the cash we could make out of them. We’ll find that ‘currency’ in other places.”
Dereck and Beverly Joubert have been filming, researching, and exploring in Africa for over 25 years and their 22 films have resulted in countless awards. Two years ago Dereck and Beverly formed the Rhinos Without Borders initiative which set out to translocate 100 rhinos from South Africa, where poaching is increasing at an alarming rate, to the comparative safety of neighbouring Botswana, renowned for its anti-poaching initiatives. To learn more about and to help this incredible cause click here.