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In Photos: The Largest Burning of Ivory in History

VICE News witnessed the torching 105 tons of ivory worth an estimated $105 million over the weekend in a bid to highlight the impact of poaching.

by Frederick Paxton and Ben Bryant
May 2 2016, 3:35pm

Photo par Frederick Paxton/VICE News

Kenya torched 105 tons of ivory worth an estimated $105 million over the weekend in a bid to highlight the impact of poaching. Eleven piles of ivory, representing the tusks of more than 6,700 elephants, were reduced to ashes on Saturday in the largest ivory burn ever seen.

The burn marked the close of the Giant's Club summit of African leaders which began in Nanyuki, central Kenya, at which the country's president, Uhuru Kenyatta, urged his counterparts to help save elephants and rhinos from extinction.

The number of elephants roaming Africa has plunged from approximately 1.2 million in the 1970s to around 400,000 today. More than 30,000 elephants were poached each year between 2010 to 2012, threatening to wipe them out in some African regions.

"The rising value of elephant ivory trade, illegally on the international market, has resulted in a massacre in the rainforest of Africa," Kenyatta told the invitation-only crowd on Saturday, as he called for an end to Africa's illegal ivory trade.

"In 10 years in central Africa we have lost as many as 70 percent of the elephants," he said. "The elephant, as has been said, is an iconic symbol of our country. Unless we take action now we risk losing this magnificent animal."

All photos by Frederick Paxton

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers on foot patrol in Nairobi National Park. This park has no elephants, rangers dedicate themselves to monitoring the rhino population.

The KWS military band takes a seat in the tent before the ivory burn ceremony begins.

'Burn architect' Robin Hollister loads rhino horn into a giant basket. The horn was incinerated with the help of a cocktail of pressurized kerosene and diesel.

President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses media at the ivory burn.

A KWS ranger watches the stack burn.

The burn site from a distance.

A close up of one of the 11 stacks of ivory, worth an estimated $105 million.

A ranger prevents the audience getting too close as the stacks burn.

Firefighters attend to a fuel leak. Gallons of diesel and kerosene were used to cremate the ivory, which does not burn.

A senior KWS official addresses media as the site burns.

A ranger guards the site of the ivory burn.

A 1.5 ton basket of rhino horn.

Follow Ben Bryant on Twitter: @benbryant

All photos by Frederick Paxton. Follow him on Instagram: @frederickpaxton

Reuters contributed to this report