Gabon destroys 5 tons of illegal ivory

By the Associated Press | June 27, 2012 | 1:09 PM EDT

COMMERCIAL PHOTO - In this photograph released by WWF-Canon via AP Images, seized ivory goes up in smoke in Libreville, Gabon, on Wednesday, June 27, 2012, in a ceremony to symbolise Gabon's commitment to ending poaching and other wildlife crimes. An estimated 5,000 to 12,000 elephants are killed each year for their ivory. Gabon's President Ali Bongo Ondimba last year created an elite military unit whose mission is to secure Gabon's parks and to protect wildlife, especially against poaching and illegal trade of ivory and the confiscated ivory was a product of this crackdown. Across Central Africa, thousands of elephants are killed each year for their tusks, which are in demand as carvings and ornaments in Asia. To verify that all Gabon's tusks were accounted for before being burned, an independent inventory and audit of the country's stockpiles has been undertaken by the government, with support from TRAFFIC and WWF experts and other independent observers. (WWF-Canon / James Morgan via AP Images)

LIBREVILLE, Gabon (AP) — Gabon's president set fire to the country's stockpile of illegal ivory in what environmentalists are calling a bold move aimed at stopping the rampant poaching of elephants in Africa.

The stockpile weighing close to 5 metric tons includes 1,293 pieces of rough ivory and 17,730 pieces of worked ivory. The total corresponds to 850 dead elephants.

President Ali Bongo said Wednesday that the West African nation has "zero tolerance" for poaching.

According to a report by the United Nations body that regulates the wildlife trade, 2011 was the worst year on record for elephant poaching in Africa. Tens of thousands of elephants are killed in Africa each year for their tusks, which are in demand in Asia.