Just two weeks after a ton of elephant ivory was pulverised into powder in New York's Times Square, another stockpile, this time containing both ivory and rhino horn, has gone up in flames thousands of miles across the ocean in Mozambique.

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Environment minister Celso Correia sets fire to the ivory and rhino horn stockpile in Maputo, Mozambique. Image: Wildlife Conservation Society 

The country destroyed over 2,400 kilograms of ivory and 86 pieces of rhino horn (weighing 193 kilograms) in a show of commitment to cracking down on rampant wildlife crime. 

"Today sends a signal. Mozambique will not tolerate poachers, traffickers, and the organised criminals who employ and pay them to kill our wildlife and threaten our communities," said the country's environment minister Celso Correia after setting the stockpile alight in the capital, Maputo, earlier today.

Among the tusks and horns destroyed at the event were the 1.3 tonnes of ivory and horn – obtained from the illegal killings of 65 rhinos and 170 elephants – seized by local police in a landmark bust in May. That operation resulted in the largest ivory haul in the country's history, and the largest rhino horn seizure anywhere in the world. But just days later, 12 of the rhino horns, valued at over a million dollars, were stolen from a police warehouse. Four policemen were later arrested in connection with the theft. 

Mozambique has established itself as a hub for international criminal syndicates, becoming a key point on the smuggling chain for wildlife products such as elephant ivory, rhino horn and South African abalone. Local authorities want today's stockpile burn to be seen as a symbolic turning point.

"Today's action is an important step in permanently putting ivory and horn beyond economic use, where it cannot leak into the black market. It follows a detailed inventory and management review in which samples were taken for DNA analysis," said Carlos Lopes Pereira of Mozambique's National Agency for Conservation Areas. 

Other measures to combat wildlife crime are also said to be in the works, including new laws to clamp down on poaching and illegal logging, as well as initiatives to improve enforcement.

The stockpile burn comes after government surveys conducted in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society showed a 48 percent drop in Mozambique's elephant numbers in just the last five years. The country's rhinos have been completely wiped out by poaching, with the last surviving animals killed back in 2013.

Globally, the trade in illegal wildlife products has soared to unprecedented levels – last year, a report found that poachers had killed 100,000 African elephants in just three years. A record 1,215 rhinos were killed in South Africa last year.

In recent months, the USA, Republic of Congo, China and the United Arab Emirates have all publicly destroyed their ivory stocks.

Top header image: Stéphan Coquelet, Filckr