Why are all the black faces in conservation in the background?

Nairobi National Park is the only park on earth bordering a capital city. It is the world’s wildlife capital and one afternoon in December 2016, it was celebrating 70 years of existence. Nairobi National park was the first gazetted park in the country, started in 1946. Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) was throwing an evening party in the park to commemorate the event. The small gathering, comprised conservationists, friends of Nairobi national park, assorted Kenyans who earn a living in the wildlife industry and uniformed KWS staffers who appeared to be attending more out of protocol than choice.

There was an air of resignation about the place. Out at the Impala observation point, a panoramic view of open savanna grassland, guests mingled awaiting the arrival of the dignitaries as the catering unit from the Ole Sereni hotel hurried about setting up.

Time To Climb Down From Ivory Towers

A cast of international celebrities were reported to be headed to Nairobi. Hollywood A-listers Leonardo Di Caprio, Nicole Kidman, Billionaire philanthropists, George Soros, Paul Allen, Michael Bloomberg and Howard Buffet, flamboyant Elton John, ex NBA athlete Yao Ming and the voice of conservation BBC’s Sir David Attenborough. That is only half the list. It read like a guest list to an invite only destination wedding for the hideously rich and famous.

The big deal was Kenya’s burning of 105 tonnes of ivory and 1.35 tonnes of rhino horn at the Nairobi National Park. The biggest ivory stockpile ever set ablaze and reportedly Kenya’s entire stash. A historic gesture by any measure.  Experts estimated it was the equivalent of 9000 elephants that when placed in a single file would measure 30 miles, the distance from Nairobi to Thika town. It was so much ivory that it took a week to stack up it into towers ready to be burned. All these great beasts, murdered for their tusks in the past decade.