The world’s poorest country is to make the world’s most expensive bonfire. On Thursday, Malawi will set fire to ivory worth more than $7.5 million, in an extravagant gesture designed to demonstrate its commitment to wildlife conservation and the fight against the colossal worldwide business of wildlife crime.
Almost four tons of ivory is held in Malawi’s stockpile, and it is going to burn the lot. This will be done at parliament, and the march to the incineration will be led by the President, Peter Mutharika, wearing a polo shirt bearing the message “Stop Wildlife Crime”, reports The Independent.
The plan follows the burning in Ethiopia earlier this month of six tons of tusks and carved ivory. There are reports that Kenya will burn a further 15 tons in the coming week. But the Malawi burning is the most remarkable.
“It is really inspiring that the Malawi government is prepared to make wildlife conservation a priority in these difficult times,” said Johnny Vaughan, general manager of the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust.
Malawi has been hammered by a devastating corruption scandal, nicknamed Cashgate, in which around £35 m was believed to have been taken out of government funds. Earlier this year, flooding killed nearly 300 people and made 230,000 homeless.
The development has earned Malawi praises from UK newspaper The Independent which reported that Malawi’s bonfire is of “humbling significance”.
It said: “Here is the world’s poorest country putting such money as it has where its mouth is. Saying that elephants matter, that wildlife matters and conservation is not a luxury for when more pressing matters have been seen to.
“There is not a country or a government in the world that can look at Malawi’s efforts and not be a little embarrassed. If Malawi can do this, every country can afford to do its bit, too.”
The ivory bonfire will involve government officials, 600 schoolchildren and dancers dressed as elephants.