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Kenya burns elephant tusks to protest ivory poaching

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NAIROBI — Eleven giant pyres of tusks went up in smoke Saturday as Kenya burnt its vast ivory stockpile in a grand gesture aimed at shocking the world into stopping the slaughter of elephants.

Lighting the fire in Nairobi’s national park, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta demanded a total ban on trade in ivory to end the ‘murderous’ trafficking and prevent the extinction of elephants in the wild.

“The height of the pile of ivory before us marks the strength of our resolve,” Kenyatta said, before thrusting a burning torch onto the ivory.

“No-one, and I repeat no-one, has any business in trading in ivory, for this trade means death of our elephants and death of our natural heritage.”

The tusks are expected to burn for days. The pyres contained some 16,000 tusks and pieces of ivory.

Kenyatta on Friday led a summit of African heads of state and conservationists pushing for a total ban.

“To lose our elephants would be to lose a key part of the heritage that we hold in trust… Quite simply, we will not allow it,” Mr Kenyatta said at a meeting of African heads of state and conservationists.

“We will not be the Africans who stood by as we lost our elephants,” he added.

The historic bonfires were the largest-ever torching of ivory, involving more than 100 tonnes from thousands of dead elephants, dwarfing by seven times any stockpile burned before.

Another 1.35 tonnes of rhino horn were also burned, representing the killing of about 340 of the endangered animals.

President Ali Bongo from Gabon, who lit one of the pyres, spoke of the “massacre” of forest elephants in central Africa, and said he backed moves to stop the sale of all ivory.

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“Unless we take action now we risk losing this magnificent animal,” Bongo said at the ceremony, telling poachers he was “going to put you out of business, so the best thing you can do is to go into retirement now”.

Africa is home to between 450,000 to 500,000 elephants, but more than 30,000 are killed every year on the continent to satisfy demand for ivory in Asia, where raw tusks sell for around $1,000 (800 euros) a kilo (2.2 pounds).

Kenya has a long history of ivory burnings, spearheading a wider movement of public demonstrations across the world, but nothing on this scale before.

On the black market, such a quantity of ivory could sell for over $100 million, and the rhino horn could raise as much as $80 million.

Rhino horn can fetch as much as $60,000 per kilo — more than gold or cocaine.

Despite the staggering size of the piles being burned, totalling some five percent of global stocks, the ivory represents just a fraction of the animals killed every year.

Kenya Wildlife Service chief Richard Leakey called on all African nations to follow Kenya in destroying ivory and rhino horn, saying it was “shameful” to keep stocks in case of possible future sale.

“They are speculators on an evil, illegal commodity,” Leakey said.

The ivory seized from poachers and smugglers over several years — as well as from animals who died naturally — is equivalent to just a quarter of the number of elephants killed each year to feed demand in growing economies in Asia, eager for an elephant’s tooth as a status symbol.

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The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) banned the ivory trade in 1989.

Activists say destroying the stocks will put anti-trafficking efforts at the top of the agenda at the next CITES conference.

AFP

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Over 70% of deep-sea fish of Atlantic Ocean have ingested plastic : Study

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Fragments of plastic are found throughout the world, from nearly every continent to nearly every body of water. But, researchers recently have found 73 percent of Northwest Atlantic deep-sea fish are also eating it — the highest reported frequency of plastic-eating fish in the world.

Plastic particles were found in some of the most remote parts of the Atlantic Ocean with almost three quarters of a sample of more than 230 deep-water fish collected by NUI Galway scientists having ingested plastic particles.

The contamination level among the fish species, located in the northwest Atlantic thousands of kilometres from land and 600m down in the ocean, is one of the highest reported frequencies of microplastic occurrence in fish worldwide, according to the study published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science.

The NUIG scientists, as part of the study, participated in a transatlantic crossing onboard the marine institute’s Celtic Explorer vessel.

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PhD candidate and lead author Alina Wieczorek said, “Deep-water fish migrate to the surface at night to feed on plankton [microscopic animals] and this is likely when they are exposed to the microplastics.”

During this research cruise they took dead deep-sea fish from midwater trawls such as the spotted lanternfish, rakery beaconlamp, stout saw-palate and scaly dragonfish.

Microplastics are small plastic fragments that commonly originate from the breakdown of larger plastic items entering the ocean. Other sources may be waste water effluents carrying plastic fibres from clothing and microbeads from personal care products. Due to their low density, most of these microplastics float at the sea surface.

The fish ranged in size from the smallest species the Glacier Lantern at 3.5cm to the largest species, the stout saw-palate at 59cm.

Agencies

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