By Daniel Howden
The bonfire of 11 tonnes of ivory in the Nairobi National Park in 1989 remains the most powerful symbol of Kenya's role in curbing the slaughter of African wildlife.
It was the prelude to an international ban on the ivory trade and a gradual recovery in herds across the continent. Since 2008 many of these gains have been eroded by a resurgent trade in rhino horn and elephant tusks.
Now, nearly a quarter of a century later, facing an equivalent threat, East African conservationists believe that Kenya may come to the rescue again.
A grass-roots movement has flourished in the region's biggest economy that has put pressure on Kenya's judiciary and its previously reluctant politicians who are now backing tougher legislation and a crackdown on poachers and smugglers.
A new wildlife and conservation Bill before the Kenyan Parliament calls for a minimum 15-year sentence and $12 000 fines for those caught taking part in the illegal trade.
A custodial sentence handed down to a Chinese citizen in August is being fêted as a turning point in what had seemed to be a losing battle.
Biemei Chen was jailed for three years after she was caught by a sharp-eyed customs officer at Nairobi airport while attempting to smuggle some 15kg of ivory hidden in the packaging of a well-known brand of macadamia nuts.
Similar offenders have received fines, which usually amount to a fraction of the commercial value of the ivory or rhino horns being smuggled. More....