Assam isn't the first to burn rhino horns: A look at where stockpiles have been burnt

Assam will mark World Rhino Day — 22 September — with a special ceremony by burning a stockpile of nearly 2,500 horns of the one-horned rhin...

Assam will mark World Rhino Day — 22 September — with a special ceremony by burning a stockpile of nearly 2,500 horns of the one-horned rhinoceros.

According to forest department officials, 2,479 rhino horns will be destroyed besides tusks of elephants and body parts of other wild animals.

Assam has the largest population of greater one-horn rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis) in the world numbering about 2,600 and found in Manas and Orang National Parks besides Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary apart from Kaziranga National Park.

On 16 September, the Assam cabinet had decided that in order to bust myths about the usefulness of the horns and prevent poaching, the 2,479 pieces stockpiled in the state treasuries would be burnt in public view.

Speaking to Indian Express, Bibhab Talukdar, chair of the Asian Rhino Specialist Group in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Asian Rhino Specialist Group, and CEO and secretary general of the NGO Aaranyak, said that India a signatory to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna). “It is illegal to sell the horns in the country anyway. So instead of the horns decaying in treasuries, the decision to burn it will send a clear-cut message -- that this is not medicine,” he was quoted as saying.

However, this is not the first time that a country has decided to burn stockpiles of rhinoceros’ horns or ivory.

Take a look at other such incidents across the world.

Kenya -- 2016

Kenya, which introduced the world to burning ivory in 1989, set the tusks of nearly 7,000 elephants — 105 metric tonnes' worth — alight in 11 separate pyres in Nairobi's National Park in April 2016.

The move was taken to make a statement against the trade in ivory and products from endangered species.

File photo of Kenyan Wildlife Services rangers standing guard around pyres of elephant tusks, ivory figurines and rhinoceros horns. AFP

According to report, more than $300 million worth of contraband went up in flames.

At the time, Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta said, “Kenya is making a statement that for us ivory is worthless unless it is on our elephants. This will send an absolutely clear message that the trade in ivory must come to an end and our elephants must be protected. I trust that the world will join us to end the horrible suffering of our herds and save our elephants for future generations.”

The ceremony was designed to highlight the decline in Africa’s wild elephant population and the impact of poaching.

Philippines -- 2013

In June 2013, Philippines became the world’s first Asian country to destroy its national confiscated ivory stock.

It was also the first time that an ivory-consumer country got rid of the stock, sending a very clear message to other Asian and African countries: stop the ivory trade and don’t put a value on the existing stocks.

Philippine government workers crushed and burned more than five tonnes of smuggled elephant tusks worth an estimated $10 million.

The Manila government had said the destruction of the stockpile, gathered from seizures since 2009, demonstrated its commitment to fighting the illegal ivory trade.

China -- 2014

China destroyed 6.1 tonnes of confiscated tusks and carvings on 6 January 2014, a move welcomed by conservationists.

The destruction of ivory by China was seen as a symbol of the government’s growing responsiveness to the ivory crisis.

China is the world's biggest market for ivory, accounting for 70 percent of the global demand as of 2014.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare had been "delighted" with China's move, while Chinese former basketball player and wildlife campaigner Yao Ming called it "a significant step in raising public awareness," and that he hoped it would "lead to similar events throughout China."

Czech Republic – 2014 and 2016

In October 2014, The Czech Republic burnt 60 kilograms of rhino horns, the first public burning of rhino horns in Europe.

The Czech Republic burned the horns, which came from a government stockpile as well as from past rhinos held at the zoo, in a bid to help conserve rhinos, which have been decimated by a worsening poaching crisis.

In fact, the Czech Republic is often used as a transit point for smugglers of rhino horn.

In 2016, the authorities once again burnt more than 33 kg of rhino horn at the Dvůr Králové Zoo in Czech Republic.

Speaking at the event, world-renowned conservationist Richard Leakey said: "Many people cannot understand why destroying is the best thing to do with the rhino horns. When we burned ivory in Kenya at the end of the 1980s, its price dropped rapidly in about half a year as the demand for it was dramatically reduced. Apparently, people have already begun to realise that the cost for purchasing ivory items is animal lives."

Sri Lanka – 2016

The Sri Lankan government destroyed its biggest ever illegal ivory haul in January 2016 in what customs officials said was an attempt to show poachers that the island will not tolerate the violent trade.

More than 350 tusks were displayed at the Galle Face promenade in the island’s capital Colombo before being fed into a 100-tonne crusher to be sent to an industrial furnace.

“We are trying to demonstrate that there is no value for blood ivory... It is horribly cruel and the elephants suffer for about a week before they die,” Colombo customs director, Udayantha Liyanage, was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

This was the first time a South Asian country destroyed its illegal ivory stockpile.

With inputs from agencies

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