Gabonese President Ali Bongo set fire to nearly five tons of illegal ivory worth $9.3 million as part of an attempt to deter poaching.
Bongo said burning the ivory was meant to send a "strong signal" to those still involved in illegal trading, reported BBC News.
"Gabon has a policy of zero tolerance for wildlife crime and we are putting in place the institutions and laws to ensure this policy is enforced," he told BBC. "We don't want our children to inherit an empty forest. For that reason, we cannot allow this trafficking to continue."
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The five tons of ivory that was lit on fire in the capital city of Libreville was the west African country's entire government stockpile, according to Agence France-Presse. That amount of ivory would have required the killing of around 850 elephants.
The World Wildlife Fund's Carlos Drews also told AFP that one of the reasons the stockpile was burned was to prevent the confiscated ivory from ending up on the illegal market.
A report by the United Nations body that regulates wildlife trade stated that 2011 was the worst year on record for elephant poaching in Africa, reported the Associated Press. Tens of thousands of elephants are killed in Africa each year for their tusks, which are in high demand and sought after in the Asian market.