Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila on Sunday set light to an ivory stockpile to highlight the problem of poaching in the central African country.
The president also released five grey parrots and set light to a stockpile of pangolin scales in a ceremony at the Nsele Nature Park on the outskirts of Kinshasa.
“We wanted to discourage poachers and criminals,” said Cosma Wilungula, director general of the Congelese Institute for Nature Conservation.
“In the past 15 to 20 years I’ve lost more than 380 guards in clashes,” he said.
Africa is home to between 450,000 to 500,000 elephants, but more than 30,000 are killed every year on the continent mainly to satisfy demand for ivory in Asia, where tusks sell for around $1,000 (800 euros) a kilo (2.2 pounds).
DR Congo’s Virunga national park covering 7,800 square kilometres (3,000 miles) along a swathe of eastern DR Congo abutting the border with Uganda and Rwanda is also one of the world’s most important conservation sites.
Established in 1925, it is home to about a quarter of the world’s population of critically endangered mountain gorillas, as well as to eastern lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, okapis, lions, elephants and hippos.
But it is located in DR Congo’s North Kivu province, where armed groups are fighting for control of territorial and natural resources, and poaching is a major threat.