Ivory Stockpile Burns

Ivory burn in Nairobi, Kenya. (1989)

Ivory burn in Nairobi, Kenya. (1989)

On 19 July, 1989 Kenya burned its 12,000 kilogram (26,455 pounds) stockpile of ivory. This was the first such “ivory burn” to ever take place. The purpose was to deny the ivory a market, whether illegal or legal, so that it could never be sold and would not stimulate demand for products from the recently protected African elephant.

Although the Asian elephant had been a protected species since 1975, listed on CITES Appendix I which prohibits international trade of live animals or its parts, the African elephant only gained the same protections in 1989. Kenya’s ivory burn showed the international community that the country was dedicated to ending the eradication of African elephants, which across the continent had fallen from a population of 1.3 million in 1979 to an estimated 600,000 in 1989. Kenya’s own elephant population had fallen from roughly 167,000 in 1973 to an estimated 60,000-71,500 in 1977. Today the country, along with several other African nations, remains a strong opponent of any international trade in ivory. To date at least 20 countries, as well as the Hong Kong Special Administration Region, have voluntarily participated in ivory burns or crushes.

Central Africa and East Africa were major sources of ivory throughout the 1900s and sold the raw or partially-worked ivory to dozens of nations world-wide. Prior to the international trade ban most ivory had been purchased by Japan, the United States, and Europe (To Save an Elephant by Allan Thornton). Today China and Japan are thought to be the largest markets for ivory, but the United States may continue to be a major importer of worked ivory from China and of mammoth ivory from Russia. Ivory is also highly prized throughout Southeast Asia and antique ivory is still legally sold throughout the world.

Since the first ivory stockpile burn several other nations have joined Kenya in destroying their stockpiles, described in the list below. By 2015 more than 100,000 kilograms of ivory have been destroyed to prevent it from contributing to strong ivory demand. However some Asian and African nations have petitioned CITES to allow a one-time sale of ivory stockpiles from specific African nations. The first one-off sale was approved in 1997 and Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe sold government-held inventories (page 12) of ivory weighing 49,574 kilograms (109,292 pounds) to Japan. The sale was valued at roughly $5 million or about $100 per kilogram of raw ivory. A second sale occurred in late 2008 (page 12) and South Africa joined Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe in selling 107,770 kg (237,592 pounds) of ivory to China and Japan. The sale was valued at nearly $15.5 million or around $140 per kilogram of raw ivory.

Ivory Crush or Burn Events

Date Country Amount Units Notes, Sources
Total ivory burned or crushed ~ 260,405.6 kg Figure includes only 1,000 of the 29,600 kg claimed destroyed by Hong Kong and an estimated 1,800 kg from the U.S. in August of 2017.
2023 November 23 France ~ 1,800 kg As part of an awareness campaign, authorities destroyed approximately 1.8 tonnes of ivory donated or surrendered by French citizens since 2015. IFAW.org
2021 September 23 India 0 kg On World Rhino Day the Indian government destroyed 2,479 rhino horns weighing 1,303.25 kg. 15 horns were from African rhinos. IFAW.org, APNews.com
2020 August 11 Singapore ≤ 9,000 kg Around 9,000 kilograms of ivory, mostly seized in a single shipment, was destroyed. NParks.gov.sg, StraitsTimes.com
2017 August 3 United States ≤ 1,800 kg Nearly 1,800 kilograms of ivory seized in New York was crushed. The ivory represents at least 100 elephants and was valued at more than $4.5 million. ABC’s WXOW.com, NYTimes.com, IFAW.org
2016 November 12 Vietnam ≤ 2,200 kg Nearly 2,200 kilograms of ivory from an estimated 330 poached elephants and 70 kilograms of rhino horn from 23 rhinos were crushed and then burned. Reuters.com
2016 June 13 Singapore 7,900 kg Crushed and then incinerated. Ivory was obtained from illegal shipments since January 2014. Mongabay.com, ChannelNewsAsia.com
2016 April 30 Kenya ≥ 105,000 kg Roughly 105,000 kilograms of ivory from an estimated 8,000 poached elephants as well as over 1,000 kilograms of horn from 343 rhinos. Reuters.com, ABCNews.Go.com
2016 April 19 Cameroon 2,000 kg Ceremony presided over by Cameroon’s Forest and Wildlife Minister and TRAFFIC representatives, potentially the entire stockpile contained 3,510.2 kg of ivory, but it is unclear whether all was destroyed. TRAFFIC.org
2016 April 14 Malaysia ~ 9,550 kg Ivory destroyed represented about 60% of the country’s existing seized ivory stockpile to that date. TRAFFIC.org
2016 March 31 Italy ~ 400 kg A few hundred kilograms of ivory. EarthLeague.org
2016 March 14 Malawi > 2,600 kg Original ivory burn was postponed in April 2015, rumored to be between 4,000 and 6,600 kg. ENS-Newswire.com
2016 January 26 Sri Lanka ~ 1,500 kg A shipment of 359 tusks have been destroyed. A 5,000 tusk stockpile is rumored to be scheduled to be destroyed at a later date. Mongabay.com, WildlifeNews.co.uk
2015 August 26 Thailand ≥ 2,100 kg ThinkProgress.org
2015 July 6 Mozambique 2,434.6 kg 193.5 kg of rhino horn were also burned; South Africa issued a press release. TRAFFIC.org
2015 June 19 United States ≥ 909 kg Crushed. WildAid.org, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
2015 May 29 China 662 kg ChinaDaily.com.cn
2015 April 29 United Arab Emirates 10,000 kg IFAW.org
2015 April 25 Republic of Congo 4,700 kg BornFree.org.uk, Voices.NationalGeographic.com
2015 March 20 Ethiopia 6,100 kg Voices.NationalGeographic.com
2015 March 3 Kenya 15,000 kg VOANews.com, Voices.NationalGeographic.com
2014-2015 May Hong Kong[1] ≤ 29,600 kg Only 1 metric tonne confirmed destroyed in 2014. CNN.com, Voices.NationalGeographic.com
2014 Portugal ~ 1,000 kg No online news sources report on this event. WCS.org
2014 April 9 Belgium 1,500 kg News.NationalGeographic.com, Voices.NationalGeographic.com
2014 February 21 Chad 1,100 kg African-Parks.org, Voices.NationalGeographic.com
2014 February 6 France 3,500 kg BornFree.org.uk, Voices.NationalGeographic.com
2014 January 6 China 6,150 kg WashingtonPost.com, Voices.NationalGeographic.com
2013 November 14 United States 5,400 kg BornFree.org.uk, Voices.NationalGeographic.com
2013 June 21 Philippines 5,000 kg Crushed. Voices.NationalGeographic.com, News.NationalGeographic.com
2012 June 27 Gabon 4,800 kg BornFree.org.uk, News.NationalGeographic.com
2011 July 20 Kenya 5,000 kg BornFree.org.uk, Voices.NationalGeographic.com
1992 February 14 Zambia 9,500 kg Zambia joined and supported the international ivory ban on 7 February, 1992. Dates provided in “The Eye of the Elephant” by Delia and Mark Owens. Voices.NationalGeographic.com
1992 United Arab Emirates 12,000 kg No online news sources are available for this 12 tonne ivory burn. WCS.org
1991 July Kenya 6,800 kg NewScientist.com
1989 July 19 Kenya 12,000 kg BornFree.org.uk, Voices.NationalGeographic.com


  1. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China has carried out its own ivory crush, independent of its national government and is listed separately in the chart above.